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Monthly Archive:: August 2012

New Type of Crash Test

Cars are safer than ever before, yet drivers are still being injured at alarming rates. Why is that? We’re padded in balloon-like airbag compartments with crush zones and safety cages designed to absorb crash energy so our bodies won’t. Even our knees are protected by airbags in some vehicles! Yet there are still over 10,000 deaths from frontal crashes each year. Why? Small overlap frontal crashes.

Certainly there are unsurvivable crashes. That’s a given. But we can improve our vehicles even more in small overlap frontal crashes. What’s a small overlap frontal crash? It’s that thin slice of area to the left or right of the engine, where the front fenders are. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) has designed a new crash test for that area and the majority of midsize luxury and near-luxury cars earn only marginal or poor ratings in this test. Only two IIHS 2012 Top Safety Pick cars, the Acura TL and the Volvo S60, earn Good ratings, while the Infinity G earns an Acceptable rating. The new test has 25% of the vehicle’s front end striking a 5 foot tall rigid barrier at 40 mph. The dummy used is the 50th percentile male Hybrid III. IIHS is currently the only entity performing the test.

Vehicle manufacturers, to this point, have designed vehicles that perform well for current frontal crash tests, meaning the crush zones protect occupants in head-on or offset collisions. There’s no structure on the edge of many vehicles for occupant protection, which is why small overlap frontal crashes are so deadly. In a 2009 IIHS study, nearly a quarter of the frontal crashes that involved serious or fatal injury to front seat occupants were due to small overlap crashes in vehicles that received good frontal crash ratings.

In a small overlap frontal crash, the crash forces go to the outside edges of the vehicle. The affected side’s wheel, suspension system, and firewall are pushed back. The A-pillar (the main pillar that holds your windshield and blocks your view) can be pushed back into the passenger compartment and footwells can be compromised. It’s also a gray area for airbags. Frontal airbags are designed to go off for this type of impact, but side and torso airbags may or may not deploy, depending on the algorithms some manufacturers use in adjusting their airbag sensitivity. Side airbags are generally designed to deploy when a vehicle is hit on the side, as when you’re T-boned. Because the steering column moved to the right in the Lincoln MKZ, the dummy’s head and chest completely missed the front airbag in one test.

Vehicle manufacturers will no doubt be quick to head back to the drawing board to work on new safety designs for this test. The IIHS tested luxury and near-luxury vehicles because they tend to have the latest and greatest safety items before more affordable vehicles. Top-selling vehicles, such as the Ford Fusion, Honda Accord, and Toyota Camry, will be tested next.

Graco TurboBooster with Safety Surround Mini Review

The Graco Highback TurboBooster featuring Safety Surround is the latest variant of the very popular Turbo high back booster.  It is designed to fit children from 30-100 pounds in high back mode and from 40-100 pounds when converted to backless mode.  The main difference from the regular Turbo high back booster is the addition of Safety Surround.  This provides deeper side impact protection wings around the head and torso compared to the standard TurboBooster.  Otherwise, the new TurboBooster is very similar in dimensions as the standard model.  For example, it has the same maximum height in high back mode, so the tallest kids may have to use it in backless mode without the side impact protection until they pass the 5-step test.

This model also retains the other standard features, including two handy hide-away cup holders and height adjustable head restraint and arm rests.  A screw must still be removed to adjust each armrest, but unlike the standard highback model, the screws come pre-installed in a fully-assembled backless section.  Only the back needs to be attached out-of-the-box.  The original TurboBooster has been around for so long and has been so popular, there’s simply not much to add.  Newer versions of the original model have been updated to perform well in the IIHS booster testing and I would expect the Safety Surround version to do so as well.

The Graco TurboBooster with Safety Surround is available at Target in four colors shown below, Dahlia, Pearson, Rush and Harrington.  Like other Graco carseats, it is tested to meet or exceed all US standards in addition to the draft European side impact standard and Graco’s own side impact standards.

First Peek: Chicco NextFit 65 Convertible!

Today Chicco, USA unveiled their new prototype NextFit 65 convertible carseat at the Kidz In Motion (KIM) Conference in Orlando. We’ve been waiting for this seat for a looong time and it looks very, very promising!  *UPDATE – Chicco NextFit is now available for pre-order on Amazon! It will make its way to Canada eventually but US will get it first.

Some of the innovative NextFit 65 features include nine recline angle options; 2 bubble level angle indicators (one for rear-facing; one for forward-facing); SuperCinch LATCH tightening system which is so easy even my elderly mother-in-law could get a solid LATCH installation quickly and without effort; 2-position chest clip (more narrow setting for babies, wider setting for older kids).

Overall, it looks like a great new convertible and I’m looking forward to the final production model which we will be reviewing as soon as possible!

*Please keep in mind that all details and images below are preliminary.  This flyer was distributed at the 2012 Kids in Motion conference and may not be representative of the final version.

 

More info on the Chicco NextFit Convertible can be found on our update from the ABC Kids Expo.

 

Tallest Extended Rear-Facing Carseat? Try the Graco Size4Me 70!

My review of the Graco Size4Me 70 will be coming in the next few weeks.  Suffice to say that I really like it overall and it may well be added as one of our recommended carseats in the next update.  One of the few drawbacks of the Size4Me 70 was the 40″ stated rear-facing height limit, reducing the rear-facing potential of this very tall seat.

I am happy to say that effective immediately, this restriction is no longer in place and is retroactive to all Size4Me 70 seats already sold!  The new height limit is that the top of the child’s head must be at least 1” (2.54 cm) below the bottom of the red head support actuator when using the seat rear facing.  The head support may be placed in any of the adjustment positions provided that the shoulder harness is positioned at or below the child’s shoulders!

This change will make the Size4Me one of the very best models to keep your child rear-facing as long as possible all the way up to the 40 pound rear-facing weight limit!