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Monthly Archive:: December 2010

Best CRs of the Decade!

Here at CarseatBlog, we like to think of ourselves not just as CPS Techs and Instructors, but also as Connoisseurs or Aficionados of fine child restraint products.  Darren, Heather and I have all been active in the field of Child Passenger Safety since the late 1990′s and through the last decade we’ve witnessed an astonishing wave of safety-related engineering and innovation.  Along the way, we learned to appreciate good design, outstanding engineering and quality components.  We’ve seen gems and busts.  We’ve seen trends that came and went and those that just took off and changed the game forever.  So, what constitutes a great child restraint and makes it worthy of a “Best CR of the Decade” nomination?  Well, innovation for starters.  Greatness often begins when someone dares to think outside of the box, push limits, and ignore the naysayers.  To all those rebels out there – we salute you!

An Open Letter to the FAA

Dear Federal Aviation Administration:

A few weeks ago, I wrote a blog post here about your policies regarding car seat use on planes. Shortly thereafter (purely through coincidence), the National Transportation Safety Board held a forum on Child Passenger Safety in the Air and in Automobiles, during which the NTSB recommended that children under 2 use carseats on planes.

Of course, FAA, this isn’t the first time you’ve heard this recommendation. The NTSB actually requested back in August that you make it a requirement that every passenger –not just those over 2–have a ticket and a seat. In fact, the NTSB has made that request numerous times over the past 20 years, but you have always nixed the idea.

The justification you give is that if parents can’t afford to buy a ticket for Little Billy, they will be forced to drive instead, therefore increasing the child’s risk of injury or death since car travel is so much more dangerous than air travel.

Okay, FAA, in a way you have a point. Vehicle collisions are, after all, the leading cause of accidental death to children, while the number of people killed each year on commercial airlines is miniscule. So why, then, does the FAA require seatbelts for adults?

Let’s examine your argument about people deciding to drive instead of fly.

Sometimes that might be the case. If I want to go to Phoenix from my home in Southern California, I could fly there in an hour or drive there in about eight (six if I don’t stop, but remember, we’re traveling with kids). Either way I could be there by the afternoon if I left early in the morning.

But let’s say I need to get from Miami to Seattle. I could fly there in one day, but driving would take a week. (Google says 54 hours, but again, if you travel with kids you need to make stops. Plus I like sleeping in actual beds.) So that’s two weeks roundtrip. When you add up time off work just to get there and back, plus lodging, gas, and lots of meals along the way, flying would likely be the cheaper and much faster option.

The point is that, yes, some people will choose to drive instead of fly when that’s a realistic option, but many times it’s not.

Also, FAA, if you’re so concerned about children’s safety in cars, you might want to think about what happens to the car seats that parents check in so they can hold Little Tabitha on their laps. Have you seen the way baggage handlers treat luggage? Do you know how many times I’ve heard complaints about car seats being damaged by airlines? A broken or lost seat isn’t going to do much good when the kid gets to his destination. Requiring parents to take the seat onboard insures against loss and damage.

You know what else? Having kids is expensive! There are a lot of costs we just can’t avoid, and if having to buy a ticket for the baby keeps parents from flying, they’ll have to forgo the trip. There are people who can’t or won’t buy proper child restraints for their own cars but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t have laws saying that they must.

FAA, let’s be honest with each other. Your concern for children’s safety in cars is quite benevolent, but I don’t believe for a second that’s your true interest. In fact, I bet you’re in favor of requiring babies to have tickets but feel pressure from the airlines who could lose money if that were the case. If buying a ticket for Baby forces a family to drive, that means that Mom and Dad don’t buy tickets either, and the airline has just lost out on their fares, too.

Don’t be too concerned about the airlines, though. With the way they nickle-and-dime us these days, I’m sure they’ll be able to make up for those couple tickets by selling the seats to someone else at an inflated price and jacking up the checked-bag fee, plus charging $10 to borrow a “blanket.” Really, the airlines will be fine.

The airlines could also build up some goodwill among families by doing a couple pretty simple things, like letting people with car seats preboard. I know their TitaniumAmbassadorFirstPassClub members might not like having to share the plane with a couple of snotty kids for five minutes before the rest of the sardines are packed in, but everyone would be much happier in the end. And it would really help if airline employees were familiar with the FAA’s car seat regulations. Maybe you could send them a memo.

FAA, I don’t mean to sound ungrateful. Your policies regarding traveling with car seats are great, and much better than those of most other countries. But it’s time to set aside the pressure from airlines and do what you’re charged with doing. Your Mission Statement claims, “Safety is our passion. We work so all air and space travelers arrive safely at their destinations.” Start including infants and toddlers in that statement, FAA. If my laptop needs to be secure during takeoff and landing, my child should be, too.

Sincerely,

A Safety-Conscious Mom

2011 Nissan Quest Review: Is the Newly Redesigned Minivan for You?

It’s been 7 years since Nissan came out with the original Quest and it was overdue for a redesign. They’ve had a history of having forward-thinking design with their minivans—no stuffy styling here.  And the Nissan engineers have continued in that tradition with sporty styling that says “Outta my way!”  I’ll be honest: I wasn’t all that impressed with the appearance of the 2011 Quest by what I saw on their website.  It was very 2-dimensional (and yes, I’m aware they haven’t come out with a 3-D home computer yet ;) ), even as I dragged the slider around to spin the virtual van every which way and back.  I just didn’t see the lines that were supposedly there.  So, first impressions were dim.

But, I was excited to get away—an overnight mini-vacation in an awesome hotel—L’Auberge Del Mar!  For the rest of the journalists there covering the “ride,” it was yet another day away from home.  I don’t get out much evidently.  When my driver pulled up in front of the hotel, there was a Quest parked right there in front for all guests to see.  I was impressed!  It looked *so* much nicer in person than on the website.  It looks small, but the length is within a half-inch of the new Sienna.  Perhaps it’s the shininess that caught my eye, the newness.  It is a very different-looking van from all the competition, and that is what Nissan is known for doing with the styling on its mini-vans. 

The Worst Carseats of 2010

In general, I’m really not a fan of “Best” and “Worst” lists.  We all have opinions on what we love and what we can’t stand and just because I don’t care for something doesn’t mean you won’t love it.  I’ve also been around this field long enough to have some perspective on the issues.  I can clearly recall the not-so-good-ol’-days when there was a lot more to hate in the wonderful world of child restraints.  Things like shield boosters and rear-facing convertible seats that only went to 22 lbs and forward-facing seats with rear harness adjusters (you actually had to uninstall the seat just to tighten and loosen the harness straps – insane, huh?)  And seats that were literally impossible to install correctly in almost any vehicle with straps so twisty that they looked like ropes after just a few months of use and there was very little that could be done to stop the process or correct it.

Point is, there’s a lot less to truly hate nowadays.  But there are still some legitimate poor choices currently available for purchase on store shelves right now.  Many are designs that have been around for a decade or longer but still manage to sell for various reason (price, styling, cute covers).  These seats are all throw-backs to the past and there are definitely much better options currently available in each category.  Of course any child restraint is better than nothing at all, but if you’re shopping for something new, you’d be doing yourself a favor if you bought something that wasn’t on this list.  

Here are my nominations for the Worst Carseats of 2010: