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Monthly Archive:: February 2011

Tether Anchor Weight Limits – Honda, Acura, Mercedes & Ferrari aren’t competitive in one important area of child occupant safety

First and foremost, I’d like to say that we’ve been heaping a lot of well-deserved praise on Honda lately. Darren and I have both had the pleasure of reviewing and reporting on the new 2011 Odyssey.  Additionally, there was the recent release of stellar crash test results for this newest generation Ody from NHTSA & the IIHS which prompted yet another blog to sing the praises of a job well done by Honda.  Even here on the homefront, we have a new-to-us 2006 Honda Pilot sitting in the driveway and overall I’m very impressed and happy with our new vehicle. 

However, with that said, there is one area of child occupant protection where Honda and their luxury brand, Acura, really fall short.  I’m talking about tether anchor weight limits.  To be fair, it’s not just Honda & Acura that have failed to compete in this category – Mercedes Benz & Ferrari also state the same low, uber-conservative 40 lb limit for their lower anchors and top tether anchors.  But it’s not a stretch to assume that there are far more children in the US riding around in the backseat of Honda vehicles than in all the others (Acura, MB & Ferrari) combined.  That’s why it’s so important for us, as advocates for child passenger safety, to attempt to bring some much-needed attention to this issue.  We are continually frustrated in our efforts to practice and promote best-practice recommendations for child occupant protection because our efforts are hampered by ridiculously low tether anchor weight limits. 

For the record, I’m specifically referring to the numbers provided by the vehicle manufacturers themselves to the editors and researchers of The LATCH Manual, published by Safe Ride News.  For those who are not familiar with The LATCH Manual – it’s considered the premier reference resource used by CPS practioners for obtaining accurate and comprehensive information on all things relating to the LATCH system.  Unfortunately, in the current 2011 Edition of LATCH Manual, Honda continues to list 40 lbs as the maximum child weight for using lower anchors and top tether anchor in their vehicles.  

In reality, the stated 40 lbs weight limit on the lower anchors isn’t a huge problem because there’s a simple and more-than-adequate alternative to using the lower anchors to secure a CR – it’s the old standby, the vehicle’s seatbelt!  However, in the vast majority of situations there is no simple alternative to reducing head excursion in a crash without using the vehicle’s top tether anchor.  Of course, this is only a dilemma if your child weighs more than 40 lbs and rides in a Honda/Acura/Mercedes or Ferrari (we should all be lucky enough to have this problem!) in a CR with a harness rated beyond 40 lbs.  But considering how many kids over 40 lbs are currently riding in higher-weight harnessed seats, this is an enormous problem that deserves immediate attention. 

    

In comparison to the 40 lb limits stated by Honda, Acura, Mercedes & Ferrari - most other vehicle manufacturers either state higher weight limits or simply defer to the Child Restraint instructions for guidance on the issue of when to use (and when to discontinue usage) of lower anchors and/or top tether anchors.  Forward-facing CRs should be used in the manner that they were designed and tested to be used – which in most cases includes the usage of the top tether strap if a tether anchor is available.   

To summarize, it’s not like Honda uses subpar tether anchor hardware compared to Ford, Nissan, Toyota or Volvo (who all defer to the CR instructions for TA usage).  All lower and top tether anchors have to meet the same federal standards mandated in FMVSS 225.  Why the engineers at Honda/Acura, Mercedes & Ferrari have greater liability concerns and/or less faith in the anchor hardware is a mystery to those of us who are not privy to their water cooler discussions.   And I’m not trying to over-simplify the issues – I just don’t understand what they’re thinking.  These low, arbitrary tether anchor weight limits are potentially putting children at risk for head injuries due to increased head excursion in a crash if the tether strap on the CR isn’t used.  These limits also tie the hands of CPS Technicians and Instructors as they attempt to promote and educate parents & caregivers on best practice recommendations for child passenger safety.  

Hopefully, Honda (and all vehicle manufacturers) will quickly adopt weight limits consistent with today’s child restraint systems rated to 65 or even 80 pounds.  At the very least, they could defer to the child safety seat manufacturer for guidance on limits.  Providing no such guidance, as is the case with many Honda owners manuals, places both parents and technicians in a very confusing situation regarding an important safety issue.

Halfway Around the World: A New Zealand Travelogue

Kia Ora!  For our vacation this year, we visited Matt’s mom and her Kiwi dh in New Zealand for Christmas.  They live on a farm of about 10 acres and grow avocados, some oranges, some lemons, and some apples, along within smattering of some other local fruit.  Their main business is a bed and breakfast, so we end up with very nice accommodations :).  Trouble is, they’re selling it, so if and when we visit next, we won’t have gorgeous views of the Tasman Sea, playing on the beach or their grounds . . . sigh.

Anyway, those crazy Kiwis, they do more weird things than just drive on the wrong side of the road and talk funny.  Their cars are different, their road signs are (dare I say?) logical, and child passenger safety laws are abysmal.

The Safest AND Most Flexible Family Vehicle?

We’ve already covered the new 2011 Honda Odyssey quite extensively in Part I and Part II of my preview and also in Kecia’s review.  With the amazingly flexible 8-passenger seating and great cargo space, it is arguably the best family hauler around, especially for larger families with lots of small kids!

But what about safety?  We didn’t know much at the time of our reviews, other than the great history of top crash results Honda has had with the 2nd and 3rd generation Odyssey.  Well, now we know a bit more about the new 2011 Odyssey in terms of crashworthiness, and the results are outstanding.  First, the Odyssey is one of the few vehicles so far to get an overall 5-star rating in the new 2011 NHTSA crash testing system.  In fact, it received a perfect 5-stars in all five crash tests (Frontal Driver and Passenger, Side Front Seat Male, Reat Seat Female and the new Side Impact Pole Test).  As of today, no other SUV or van has managed this feat of crash safety! It received 4-stars in the rollover rating (not an actual crash test).  In fact, only one other vehicle in the 2011 NHTSA crash test database can match this result as of today, the 2011 Chevy Cruze.

The good news doesn’t stop there.  The IIHS has given the 2011 Odyssey it’s top “Good” result in their frontal offset crash test, their side impact test and in their ratings for seat geometry and head restraints (not an actual crash test).  The only thing keeping the 2011 Odyssey from a “Top Safety Pick” for 2011 is that it has not yet been tested for roof crush strength.  A good result there and the Odyssey will be one of a very exclusive group of vehicles to be an “IIHS Top Safety Pick” AND have a 5-star overall NHTSA rating.

Even so, 5-star NHTSA crash results across the board are impressive, especially in the new testing that is more difficult than the tests done in 2010 and earlier.  Kecia has a blog with more on that topic.  To combine that with Good results in the two IIHS crash tests is a very impressive accomplishment  indeed; one that will set the standard for crash test safety for family vehicles.  I have been considering switching from my 2006 Honda Odyssey to an SUV, but these results might make me reconsider!  If only I could get the fuel economy of the Touring models for the price of an EX, or better yet, a hybrid!

Editors Note: The 2011 Odyssey did later receive an IIHS “Top Safety Pick” award, after its result in the roof crush test was one of the best results ever.  With solid performance for crash avoidance and excellent crashworthiness, the Odyssey has a genuine claim to being one of the safest passenger vehicles on the road today!

Guest Blog: Burning Down the House

Earlier this week I inadvertently created a plume of green toxic smoke in my kitchen. As fun and interesting as that sounds, it’s not actually the topic of this post. It did, however, lead someone to remind me about the time I left carrots cooking on the stove while I ran some errands. I realized that we, understandably, spend a lot of time talking about the number-one killer of children (car accidents), so why not also take a minute to talk about the number-one cause of residential fires (unattended cooking)?

Now of course I didn’t intend to leave my carrots on the stove. I had planned on running to the craft store and then out to dinner, so I put some carrots on the stove to boil for my one-year-old to chomp on at the restaurant. I set the timer and went to do some other things.