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Monthly Archive:: April 2009

Let’s Play “Stump The CPS Geeks”!

Okay, here’s the deal - I’ll PayPal $5 to the first person who can correctly tell me what this thing is and what purpose it serves.  For the record, I have never seen this before and I have no clue what it is.  And unfortunately, the one person at Volvo who probably knows for sure is out of the office for the week.

Harmony “Secure Deluxe Comfort Booster” Review

The Secure Deluxe Comfort Booster (aka the Harmony Olympian) is a new backless BPB from Harmony Juvenile Products.  It’s rated for children from 30-110 lbs and from 34-57″.  Needless to say, those weight and height minimums are way too low for a backless booster.  I know some 1-year-old children who would meet those minimums (and that’s a scary thought), so let me be very clear about this -  this is a seat for BIG kids.  Big kids have ipods, read chapter books and ride bikes without training wheels.  Big kids weigh more than 40 lbs and rarely or never sleep in the car.  These are the kids for whom a backless booster could be appropriate.  And for these kids – I think this is a really nice booster seat.

At first I thought that this new seat might be a repackaged Combi Dakota but it’s definitely not.  It is, however, actually a little bit bigger than the Dakota which was a pleasant surprise.

Below are a bunch of pictures of the Secure Comfort Deluxe booster and many are comparing it side-by-side to the Combi Dakota.  You’ll also get to see the new deck that my DH is building on our house! :)  Hopefully, these pics will give everyone a good idea of what this seat is like.  In a few days, I’ll post some more pictures of kids buckled up in this seat to give everyone an idea of belt fit but I can almost guarantee that belt fit is going to be good based on the design.

My only gripes so far have nothing to do with the seat itself.  As I mentioned previously, I have a problem with the fact that this seat is rated from 30 lbs and 34″ tall.  We know that kids under 40 lbs are best protected in a CR with a 5-point harness.  We also know that highback boosters can offer more protection than backless boosters in side-impact crashes and better support for sleeping children.  Which brings me to my next gripe.  This has to be the first backless booster to claim that it provides SI protection!  I almost laughed out loud when I saw that advertised on the box!  I understand that they’re trying to make the point that this design can help to contain the child’s hips and legs in a SI crash.  However, containing the hips and legs isn’t really a priority in a SI crash – containing the upper body and protecting the head, is.  I know “Side Impact Protection” are the big buzz words for child restraint marketing lately but if a consumer really wants a seat that will provide SI protection for their child – they shouldn’t be looking at backless boosters.  I guess we’re just going to have to deal with this sort of crazy advertising until NHTSA adopts a standard for SI testing and protection.

Those gripes aside, this seems like a really nice backless booster for bigger, older kids.  I picked up this one at my local TRU a few days ago for $19.99 and I’ve heard that it should be available at Walmart in a few weeks.  The cushy padding is built into the cover and the fabric is soft and plush with a little mesh accent fabric on the sides.  It appears to be very comfortable but I’ll let you know what my kids say about it when they try it.

What I like best about this booster is how wide and deep it is.  Older kids have longer legs and many booster seats just aren’t deep enough from back to front to provide good support for their thighs.  Also, this seat could be a really good choice for those kids close to, or slightly over, 100 lbs who still need a booster to pass the 5-Step Test but have trouble fitting in many of the booster models that are currently available.  Finally, for $20, it’s a seat that almost everyone can afford.  Even in these tough economic times.

Incorrect Booster Use: A True Safety Hazard

A quick show of hands–who thinks it’s easier to buckle a kid into a booster than it is to buckle a kid into a harnessed car seat?  I think many parents think it’s easier to buckle a child into a booster and that’s why we see the early transition into boosters from harnessed seats.  There are other factors as well for moving a child into a booster seat: it’s less a “baby” seat, the child has outgrown a small/short harnessed seat, the parent is only willing to follow minimum legal safety requirements, it’s easier to move from vehicle to vehicle, the child is more likely able to buckle himself into the seat, there’s less chance for user error.  Or is there?

My Third Notebook This Year: Sony Vaio Z Review

Sony Vaio Z540 vs. HP ZD7000

Sony Vaio Z540 vs. HP ZD7000

Yes, it’s another long, boring, techie-wannabe filler review, since we’re out of carseat material for today.  My current HP ZD7000 notebook is almost 5 years old.  Not bad, considering it spent a substantial percentage of its first year being repaired (or not repaired as the case may be) by HP.  It was relatively problem free for two years after that, until it died again a couple years ago.  They replaced the motherboard with a new video card under warranty and it has worked like a charm since then, knock on wood.  Other than a loose power connector, it might last another couple years, if only as a video player or for the kids to beat on.  Problem is, it’s a tank.  It’s a 17″ widescreen model and combined with its huge power adapter, it weighs well over 10 pounds.  Plus, it eats through a full battery in less than 2 hours of surfing and can warm a small room with all the heat it generates.  It has a 3.06GHz Pentium 4, 1GB memory and ATI x600 graphics, pretty much top-of-the line in 2004.

It wasn’t meant to be a portable machine; I bought it as a desktop replacement that had a lot of power and you could even play games on it.  Now, I want something light and easy to carry on trips or around the house.  I tried a netbook.  It was a nice computer, but ultimately I returned it because of a quirky touchpad, an uncomfortable palm rest and a keyboard that was just a hair too small and made touch typing error-prone.  I then bought a pretty typical 14″ notebook, a Samsung X460 targeted at business travelers.  It was also nice, but it had a screen with a very narrow sweet spot for viewing and washed out quickly if you tilted it up or down even slightly.  Mine also a problem with Vista errors and crashes that made me decide to sell it and start looking for yet another notebook.  Well, that and two trips for repair in the first month brought back painful memories of my HP ZD7000.  I do credit Samsung with customer service that is far, far better than my experiences with HP, though their repair department is probably no better.

Anyway, back to the new computer.  I took a look at a Sony Z590 when I was shopping last time.  It really fit the bill of what I wanted.  Despite having a full size keyboard, it is quite compact and very light weight.  Solid battery life.  Good display.  Reasonable power.  Bluetooth.  Vista Business with XP downgrade disc included.  And a whole lot more.  Overall, a nice upgrade to my HP desktop replacement in a package that was one third the weight and lasted twice as long on a battery.  Problem was, most people seemed to be paying well over $1500 for them and much more in many cases.  The current model is the very similar Vaio VGN-Z690 series that are even a bit more expensive.

The Great Debate: Seatbelts on School Buses

I understand both sides of the argument but I’m a firm believer that seatbelts on full-sized school buses are beneficial.  I’m happy that NY has mandated lap belts on all school buses since 1987.  Obviously, I’d be a lot happier with lap/shoulder belts but I’ll take a lap-only belt over no belt any day of the week – even in a full-sized bus.  After more than 20 years, the data from large bus crashes in NY just doesn’t support the theory that lap belts are more likely to cause injuries.  We’re just not seeing this. 

A well-done summary of the pros and cons of seatbelts on full-sized school buses can be found here.  This site is a wealth of info so take your time and look around.  Reasons 4 and 5 listed under “pros” are the two main reasons why I advocate for the usage of seatbelts on school buses.  Plus, how on Earth could I tell my soon-to-be kindergartner NOT to wear his seatbelt?  And how would he react on the first day of school sitting unrestrained for the first time in his life?  He’d probably have a panic attack and start screaming “I’m not buckled” as soon as the bus started to move.   

Keep in mind that whenever you hear “sending your child to school on the bus is 5 billion times safer than driving him/her yourself ” that we’re talking about national averages.  That means lumping me in with drunk drivers, 16-year-old drivers who are texting while driving, unrestrained kids and all the old, deathtrap vehicles on the road.  As Darren pointed out in his blog on school buses - if you looked specifically at the risk factors for MY child, properly restrained and driven to school by ME (or my DH) in MY vehicle and compared it directly to his risk factors riding on a school bus, I’m going to guess that the differences wouldn’t be so great. 

Also, contrary to popular belief, school buses are frequently involved in crashes.  Just google ”school bus crash” or do a search on youtube.  And while the full-sized bus “wins” in the vast majority of crashes that doesn’t mean there isn’t any consequence to the occupants inside the bus.  While most school bus related fatalities occur outside the bus (to pedestrians during the loading/unloading process) the overwhelming majority of school bus-related injuries (a much larger number) occur to passengers inside the bus.  As far as I’m concerned, preventing injuries to children riding the bus is important too. 

As I’ve stated before, my youngest will be entering Kindergarten in the fall and we’ve already started talking about bus safety.  I’ve pointed out how the kids wait for the driver to signal before they cross.  How if the driver blows the horn while they’re attempting to cross that means danger and they should quickly go back to the curb.  We’ve also discussed keeping everything inside your backpack so nothing can be accidentally dropped near the bus.  And if something is dropped – don’t ever run back for it.  

I remember how nervous I was about DS1 (now almost 12) riding the bus when he started Kindergarten.  Luckily, we live close to the school and I kept reminding myself that the driver was well trained, the bus always followed a familiar route, it was always daylight, etc.  Unfortunately, out-of-town field trips were a different story and I’ll admit that I was the crazy lady who met the bus at the school parking lot before the children boarded to install a CR (a 5-point Futura) for DS1 that year.  I’ll probably do the same thing for DS2 when the inevitable out-of-town Kindergarten field trip comes around.  My old, trusty Futura is long gone but now I have a SafeGuard Star in my collection of training seats thanks to Sarah G (Smiles365).   Thanks Sarah!      

Now, this whole debate about whether children should use a seatbelt on a large school bus is moot unless you happen to live in one of the few states which require them.  I believe all states require them on smaller buses because those are made more like a van and less like a tank.  Eventually all new smaller buses will have 3-pt lap/shoulder belts but that rule won’t take effect until 2011.  Still, it’s nice to know that some progress is being made in this area even if it only applies to the smaller buses.  

At the very least, it’s always a good idea to teach your kids to stay seated properly, avoid siting at the very edge of the seat (half in the aisle), and avoid sitting in the first and last row of the bus.