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Monthly Archive:: December 2010

Guest Blog: A kindred spirit in Groucho

While I was busy at a recent carseat check event in Mount Vernon, Washington, my husband wandered down the road to a street fair, locating a little bookstore along his way.  Being an old movie fan, “The Groucho Marx Letters” caught his eye.  The next day, as we drove 900 miles between California and Canada, we found a kindred spirit in Groucho.

TO THE PRESIDENT OF THE CHRYSLER CORPORATION

December 1, 1954

Dear Mr. Colbert:

My mother always told me that if I had anything of importance to discuss, to go to the top.

Each year the motor manufacturers hammer home the idea of more horsepower.  I realize a reasonable amount of power is necessary, but I think it would be much smarter if emphasis were placed on safety rather than on additional speed.  Perhaps the ads next year should read, “prettier, faster and safe.”  I also think that if a device could be installed on the carburetor (I understand there are such things) that would eliminate the belching of carbon monoxide through the city streets, the Chrysler Corporation could create an enormous amount of good will, particularly in big cities where the carbon monoxide problem is especially acute.

Every morning the front page reports of people killed in auto accidents.  A good percentage of these fatalities could be eliminated if the motorist had a reasonable amount of protection.  The average car driver in a modern automobile is a sitting duck.  There is nothing to protect him.  The records show he would be far safer on a battlefield.

Your new cars look good, but the fact of the matter is that all the new cars look good, and I firmly believe that the first automobile company that starts stressing safety instead of speed will win far more than its share of the business.

Sincerely yours,

Groucho Marx

Groucho in a Volvo three-point belt

Groucho in a Volvo three-point belt

Volvo first produced a vehicle with three-point seatbelts in 1959–5 years after Groucho’s letter to Chrysler.  Yet they were not required in all seating positions until 2007–53 years after Groucho’s letter.

Chevrolet first tested airbags in consumer vehicles in 1973, but they were only fitted in government fleet vehicles.  This was almost 20 years after Groucho’s letter.  Passive supplementary restraints were still not required in vehicles for another 15 years on passenger vehicles, and an additional 6 years (21 total) for light trucks.

Honda’s Insight, the first mass-production hybrid vehicle, was first made available in 1999; Or 45 years after Groucho’s letter.

According to the CDC, motor vehicle collisions are the #1 cause of death among individuals aged 1-34.  According to Edmunds.com, “the average car in the U.S. spews out 10,000 pounds of carbon dioxide from its tailpipe each year”.  It’s 2010–56 years since Groucho’s letter to Chrysler.

Sources:

The Library of Congress.  “Grouchy.” The Groucho Letters: Letters from and to Groucho Marx. New York: Simon and Schuster, 1967. 170-71. Print.

The Nissan LEAF Review – Family Vehicle of the Near Future?

You know that Nissan commercial where the guy finds out that his wife is pregnant and he goes out to the driveway to stare lovingly at his impressive Nissan 370Z (2-seat sports car), lamenting the lack of a backseat for his baby-to-be?  He then proceeds to stretch the vehicle into a new 2011 Maxima sedan.  Presto!  Problem solved!  Of course, in reality it’s not quite this easy to make room for your expanding family.  So, when I was invited to a media event in Manhattan to check out the brand new Nissan LEAF – I wondered, “could this amazing zero-emissions electric vehicle be an amazing zero-emissions family vehicle?”  Then I proceeded to wonder “will everyone think I’m insane when I show up at Micky Mantle’s restaurant on Central Park South with a pile of carseats stacked on a Maclaren stroller (and with no kids in sight)?”  I’m sure a few people unaffiliated with the Nissan event did wonder what the heck I was doing, in a crowded bar/restaurant, with all these carseats piled on a stroller but hey… this is Manhattan and we’re used to strange people and strange behavior, right?   

Before I go into any details regarding my assessment of this vehicle’s capabilities to haul a family around town comfortably, I just have to gush a bit first about how amazing this new vehicle really is.  I’m a typical jaded, native New Yorker and very few things in this world really blow me away.  But learning about this new vehicle and all the possibilities surrounding the technology that it incorporates was nothing short of exhilarating.  The Nissan people were also extremely knowledgeable overall (not just regarding this one particular product) and their energy and excitement regarding the LEAF was infectious. 

Everywhere we went with this incredible vehicle, people stopped to talk and stare.  From random pedestrians, to the doormen on Central Park South, to the guy driving the car-service Lincoln who pulled up next to us in traffic to announce that he had “reserved” a LEAF and was anxiously awaiting its arrival – this vehicle created a buzz everywhere it went!  It was fun to be a part of that experience even if it was just for one afternoon. 

Britax Advocate 70 CS & Boulevard 70 CS Review – Pictures, Videos, and More Pictures!

I’ll admit straight off that I have a fondness for Britax seats.  The first convertible seat I bought was a Roundabout with a DOM of May 2000.  However, if you’ve read my other reviews here and in other places, I hope I’ve shown that I’m capable of being fair and impartial.  I like all carseats :).  And to be absolutely fair, I have to admit that I’ve been very skeptical of the Advocate since it was introduced on the market because of the cost and the Side Impact Cushions.  I’ve never played with one in person in depth until it landed on my doorstep, so actually having it was a learning experience for me.

Both the Advocate 70 and the Boulevard 70 are convertible (rear-facing and forward-facing) child restraints for kids 5-70 lbs. who are less than 49” tall.  Rear-facing both models are rated from 5-40 lbs.  Forward-facing, they can be used for children over 1 year old who weigh between 20-70 lbs.  Britax redesigned their entire convertible line last summer and all of them have some of the same features, namely the base, LATCH, and EPP foam.  Kecia did a great 3-part review of the Marathon 70 when it was first released.

*UPDATE: The newest version of the Advocate 70 CS is the Britax Advocate 70 G3. The newest version of the Boulevard 70 CS is now called the Pavilion 70 G3. For information on the Britax G3 updates, see our blog here.

This review will focus on the Advocate 70 model but most of the details and comments apply to the Boulevard 70 CS & Pavilion 70 as well.

All of the Advocate, Boulevard & Pavilion models come with an infant body support cushion, belly pad, and harness strap covers.

To Backless or Not To Backless? That is The Question.

Statistics are funny things.  Somewhere, there is a study that will support just about anything.  If you have a pre-conceived notion about something, Google will lead you to some research that will validate your thinking.  Of course, that research may have been financed by the same entity that stands to benefit from the conclusions.  Or perhaps it was printed in some fly-by-night publication, rather than a well-respected, peer-reviewed professional journal.  Or maybe it was just some online “white paper” with dubious research.  Other papers seem to bypass the principles of scientific method and tailor the data to support the hypothesis they hoped to prove.  Some admit they don’t have enough data points to make statistically significant conclusions.  Plus, there are flaws and limitations even in the best studies published in respectable scientific journals.  Sometimes, a study conflicts with similar studies and it’s impossible to determine if one is more valid than the other.  In other cases, a newer set of studies compiles more data and uses better methods, making older studies obsolete.

That brings us to the issue of high-back vs. backless boosters.   Many child passenger safety advocates are aware that the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia is one of the foremost research institutions in regards to many traffic safety issues, particularly that of booster use.  Over the years, they have published numerous studies on boosters.  Their results have been used in support of many state laws in that time.  Some technicians and advocates may be aware of their 2005 study that showed that the use of high back boosters may result in a 70% reduction in injury risk compared to backless models in side impacts.  That was a pretty amazing result.  The authors concluded that, “This differential performance of the two types of BPB provides direction for future research into the design and performance of these restraints.”

High back boosters do have some theoretical benefits compared to backless models.  For example, some backless boosters lack an adjustment strap for the shoulder belt.  This type of strap is easily lost or misplaced on models that do include it, whereas high back boosters always have an integrated shoulder belt guide to help keep the seat belt routed correctly.  Also, many high back boosters now have deep wings lined with energy absorbing materials to help protect the head and torso in a side impact.  The same wings may provide more comfort for a sleeping child, too.  A few boosters allow them to be attached to the vehicle with LATCH.  In particular, early research outside the USA with ISOFIX systems may show some benefit to rigid LATCH boosters, especially in side impacts.