Monthly Archive:: December 2010

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.

Guest Blog: CPSC Database- Fabulous or Flawed?

Say you’re in the market for a new stove or a new pogo stick (and hey, who isn’t?).

Wouldn’t it be nice to know if the stove you’re considering has been reported to spontaneously combust? Wouldn’t it be nice to know that several people have had the pogo stick fall apart mid-jump?

Next spring, you’ll be able to glean more information about problems fellow consumers have had with all sorts of products, thanks to a decision by the Consumer Product Safety Commission to publish incident reports in a public database. You won’t need a user ID or password, and if you make a complaint, there’s no need to worry: No personal information will be shared with the public.

In a way, this is great news for consumers. Until now, the CPSC couldn’t release information about potentially dangerous products without permission from the manufacturer. People could ask to view complaints the agency had received, but that involved filing a request under the Freedom of Information Act, which is not something people typically do when researching their next mattress purchase. This new database will make information much more accessible and transparent.

I do see some potential downsides, though.

Help, The Government e-Kidnapped My Son!

Seriously, don’t fret, he’s OK!  I just snapped the photo to the left, where he is safe and sound after returning home from kindergarten.  The story begins with the U.S. Secretary of Transportation, Ray LaHood, who has his own blog.  You can find it here at http://fastlane.dot.gov/.  It’s a nice blog, usually with daily content that is often relevant to traffic safety.  As bloggers ourselves, we try to give props to other blogs that relate to child passenger safety, no matter how big or small.  After all, we are essentially partners in the war on traffic fatalities!