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Changes Coming to Vehicle Safety Ratings

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NHTSA NCAPIf you’re like us, one of your main questions when buying a car is, “What’s the safety rating?” We know that the ratings can’t tell us everything about a vehicle, but a good crash-test performance can help put our minds at ease.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, the government agency that oversees the 5-Star/New Car Assessment Program, recently proposed significant changes to the rating system. The proposed changes include taking into consideration crash-avoidance systems like lane departure warnings and automatic emergency braking. Technology has improved significantly since the rating system was introduced in the 1970s (heck, even in the past few years), and NHTSA feels it’s time to focus on crash avoidance, not just crash mitigation.

The proposed changes include:

  • Crash avoidance systems
  • How well vehicles protect pedestrians
  • A frontal oblique test to determine how well the vehicle protects an angled crash
  • An improved full frontal barrier test to improve safety for rear-seat passengers
  • New, improved crash test dummies
  • Half-star increments
  • The ability to make changes to the program more quickly in the future, as the need arises

NHTSANHTSA has not yet determined how much weight each category will carry. They’re currently in the midst of a 60-day public comment period, so if you have opinions, now is the time to express them! They expect the final rule on the new testing to occur by the end of 2016, and they expect the testing to be ready in time for 2019 model-year vehicles.

It’s too early to say how the new testing will play out, but one possibility is that crash-avoidance systems, often only available on higher-end models or as costly options, might become standard (hopefully without too much of an increase in price). It should also put more of an emphasis on improving back-seat safety, something that’s taken a…well…back seat as manufacturers have focused on making front seats safer.

Overall, it’s good to see the NHTSA recognizing and trying to keep up with advances in technology and safety. Now if we could just get them to update the child restraint test sled…

Guest Blog: Is my carseat allowed to go on the airplane?

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A common question among traveling parents is, “Is my carseat allowed to go on the aircraft?”

With very few exceptions, YES, it can!

Booster seats, for instance, are not approved. They require lap and shoulder belts, and aircraft are not yet equipped with more than lap belts. If you have a booster aged child and are traveling with a seat for them, you can break down the back from the bottom and store them in the overhead, put the back in your suitcase and carry on the backless booster, or just take a backless booster with you. Other options are to have a booster waiting at your destination (if possible), or something like a Ride Safer Travel Vest, BubbleBum, or  Safety 1st BoostaPak going with you.

airplaneFor harnessed seats, there are only three US seats that are not aircraft approved. The IMMI/Safety 1st Go Hybrid, Graco Smart Seat, and the Combi Zeus/Zeus 360. You cannot use one of these seats on board. All other carseats carry the sticker which indicate it IS approved for use onboard US-based aircraft.

If your seat is a rear facing only seat, check your manual to see if the base is allowed to be used on board. For most seats a base will simply add length front to back, so it likely won’t ‘be used anyway, but Britax bases, the Canadian Chicco Keyfit, the Peg Perego bases, and a few others are not aircraft approved. If you want to travel with your base, put it in the overhead bin or under the seat in front of the baby. If you can, having a base bought and shipped to your destination is an option as well.

It’s helpful to know your rights as a traveling parent. For information on regulations set by the FAA (governing US carriers), please visit:

http://carseatblog.com/22134/flying-with-a-car-seat-know-your-rights/

Department of Transportation Circular and Department of Transportation Requirements.

Holiday Toy Safety

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Screen Shot 2015-12-03 at 10.23.28 AMGood news! Toy recalls are at a seven-year low! Even so, it’s important for parents to use caution when selecting toys for their children.

The organization World Against Toys Causing Harm (WATCH) has issued its annual list of 10 Worst Toys for the holiday season. (If you were thinking about buying your kids Poo-Dough, you might want to reconsider.) Their list includes realistic-looking guns, toys for small children with choking hazards that come off too easily, and ride-on-type toys that encourage use without safety gear.


The Consumer Product Safety Commission encourages shoppers to follow these steps when choosing and giving toys:

  • Read labels and choose toys appropriate for the child’s age
  • Include proper safety gear with riding toys
  • Keep toys with small magnets away from small children

The CPSC has also produced a quick guide with more tips, such as:

  • Avoid toys with cords for very young children
  • Supervise children when using toys like electric trains
  • Be careful about toys that make loud noises, and don’t use them too close to the ear
  • Teach children to put toys away properly to avoid tripping/slipping injuries
  • Dispose of damaged toys

Reading labels, following directions, and maintaining supervision can help keep your kids safe this holiday season.

Thousands of Lives Saved in 2014

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Gen 3 seatbelt bucklesEach year, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration releases a list of lives saved due to seat belts, child restraints, motorcycle helmets, and drinking laws. NHTSA has just released the results for 2014.

The study estimates that in 2014:

  • 12,802 people 5 and older were saved by seat belts
  • 252 children 4 and under were saved by child restraints
  • 2,396 people 13 and over were saved by frontal airbags
  • 1,669 people were saved by motorcycle helmets

That’s a lot of people still alive today thanks to safety measures. Imagine how many people would have been saved with 100% compliance!

Actually, NHTSA has numbers for that, too. If everyone would have worn seat belts, and additional 2,814 lives would have been saved. Motorcycle helmets would have saved another 660 people.

We recently wrote about how 2015 was shaping up to be the deadliest driving year since 2007. We’ll have to wait a while to see if that’s true. In the meantime, make sure you and your family don’t become a statistic. Seat belts and helmets do save lives.