SCOSCHE MagicMount Review

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Screen Shot 2015-05-13 at 10.48.28 AMI have a confession to make: I use my cell phone in the car.

Before you jump on me, though, I use it in place of a navigation system. I don’t play Candy Crush while I’m driving.

The problem I’ve had, though, is finding a good way to mount my phone so I can glance over at the map. Until recently, I’ve had to keep my phone in a console down low under the dash board, meaning I’d either have to grope around and raise the phone up when I needed to see it, or I’d have to glance very far down, without even my peripheral vision on the road. Not safe.

I’ve tried a couple cellphone mounts before, the kind that stick to my windshield with a suction cup, and then have a clamp to put the phone in. I found the suction cups fell off a lot, and it was a pain to get the phone in and out of the clamp.

Then I found the SCOSCHE MagicMount system. There are various mounts available, but they all contain a powerful magnet that clings to a metal plate you stick onto your phone or set inside of your case. This means that the phone can be put on or taken off the mount in a split second.

Screen Shot 2015-05-13 at 11.17.46 AMI chose the dashboard mount, which sticks onto the car with powerful 3M adhesive. The nice thing about this mount is that it can be placed on a horizontal or vertical surface, or even a curved surface. The face of the mount can swivel in any direction, meaning you can place it pretty much wherever you need it. There are also mounts that use the suction cup, a gooseneck that sits in a power outlet, and one that clips to a vent.

FullSizeRender-2Each mount comes with two adhesive metal plates about the thickness of a business card. The small plate can adhere directly to the back of a phone or phone case. Or, if you’re like me and aren’t thrilled with the idea of sticking something to your phone, you can simply place the larger plate (without removing the cover from the adhesive side) between your phone and its case. I worried it might not be strong enough, but it’s worked perfectly on my CandyShell case and my husband’s Otterbox.

IMG_0789  FullSizeRender

Since I needed two of the large plates (one for my phone and one for my husband’s), I ordered a replacement kit, which comes with a small and large plate for the phone, a mini-size metal plate for any other small object you might want to display, plus extra 3M adhesive for the mount. All together, the original mount and replacement kit were less than $30. Once we figured out where we wanted to stick the mount, we were installed and ready to go in minutes.

We’ve been using the MagicMount for several weeks now, and I still get a little nerdy thrill each time I pop my phone onto the mount. It’s just so easy! It’s also nice that if you’d prefer a landscape view, you can just turn your phone before sticking it on—no adjustments necessary.

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Here’s a video showing how easy the mount is to use:

There is one important warning: Because the mount uses a strong magnet, you shouldn’t use it if your phone case also holds credit cards. It’s fine for smart phones, though, and since the metal plate you put on the phone isn’t magnetic itself, you don’t need to worry about it co-mingling with credit cards in your purse or pocket.

Now, readers of this blog probably have two main concerns with this product, and I’ll address them.

1) What about projectiles???

Yes, in a crash, the mount and/or phone could theoretically come off. That could happen with any mount, though. I’m not sure if it’s more or less likely with this one, but so far this one hasn’t fallen off at all, which is more than I can say for my previous clamp-style suction-cup mount, or the suction cup that holds our Garmin unit in our other vehicle.

And I have another confession: My car is not otherwise free of projectiles. I try not to keep excess stuff in there, but at any given time, we have water bottles and travel mugs in the cup holders, and my kids usually have books, toys, or tablets to keep them entertained. My phone would be somewhere in the car anyway.

2) Isn’t it a distraction?

Sure, it can be, but it doesn’t have to be. Like I said, I’m not texting or watching movies on it. I have a map displayed, which is no different than a display on a car’s built-in screen or a stand-alone navigation unit (except that it’s better positioned, in my opinion). Can I guarantee that other people won’t misuse it? No, just like I can’t guarantee they won’t misuse any other mount, or skip the mount all together and text away while driving. Anything has the chance to be misused–it depends on the person using it.

I can’t say how well this device will hold up over time, but so far I’m loving it.

CarseatBlog was not compensated in any way for this review, not even with samples. I spent my own money, and I’d do it again…and probably will when it comes time for holiday shopping. I’ll give the gift of magnets. The SCOSCHE MagicMount system used in this review can be found for under $20 at Amazon.

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America’s Best and Worst Drivers

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The Best RibbonIt seems like everyone complains about how terrible drivers in their area are. But what cities are really the worst—and the best—when it comes to driving?

 

For the past decade, Allstate has compiled data from the 200 most populous cities to answer that question. For 2014, the 10 Safest Driving Cities were:

1. Fort Collins, CO

2. Brownsville, TX

3. Boise, ID

4. Kansas City, KS

5. Huntsville, AL

6. Montgomery, AL

7. Visalia, CA

8. Laredo, TX

9. Madison, WI

10. Olathe, KS

crash

The 10 Worst:

191. New Haven, CT

192. Philadelphia, PA

193. Alexandria, VA

194. Glendale, CA

195. Baltimore, MD

196. Providence, RI

197. Springfield, MA

198. Washington, DC

199. Boston, MA

200. Worcester, MA

What do these numbers mean? Well, on average, someone in Fort Collins, CO, goes 14.2 years between collisions. Someone in Worcester, MA, goes 4.3 years between crashes.

Of course, factors like population, city density, and weather play a role, and Allstate has adjusted for each of those variables as well. Even taking all that into consideration, six of the top 1o cities are still in the top 10, and eight of the bottom 10 are still in the bottom. (Fort Collins is still best; Worcester is still worst.)

We live halfway between Chicago (#139, 8.2 years between collisions) and Rockford, IL (#25, 11.2 years between collisions). In the two years we’ve lived here, we’ve been rear-ended once and our neighbor backed into our car. (We’ve also had five nails in our tires, so I think maybe we’re just jinxed.)

You can see the full report and find your city (or nearest larger city) here. What’s the data for your area, and how does it stack up for you?

2015 IIHS LATCH Ease-of-Use Ratings – plenty of room for improvement

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2011OdysseySecondRowLATCHIIHS just released a new Ease-of-Use rating for parents to consider before buying a new vehicle: the LATCH ratings for location and use of hardware in vehicles. These ratings for 2015 vehicles—ranging from Good, Acceptable, Marginal, and Poor—measure ease-of-use only and are not considered safety ratings. In their search for ideal access to LATCH, the IIHS researchers only found 3 out of 100 vehicles made their cut for a top rating! The 2015 BMW X5, Mercedes Benz GL-Class, and Volkswagen Passat win for being most LATCH-friendly. Most notably, the Toyota Sienna minivan, built specifically for families, fetched a Poor rating (see rating example pic below).

IIHS latch rating details - sienna

LATCH is a familiar term for parents and caregivers who must deal with child restraints. LATCH_sketchWhat is it? Lower Anchors and Tethers for CHildren consists of connectors on the carseat that attach to anchors in the vehicle and is an alternative to using the seat belt for installing the carseat. Most carseats have a strap with connectors that either clip or snap onto the connectors, which are found in the vehicle’s seat bight (fancy term for “crack”). The top tether strap is found on convertible and combination carseats. These are carseats that can face forward and the tether secures the top of the carseat to the vehicle; it greatly reduces head excursion, or how far forward your child’s head comes out of the carseat in a crash. Note: the tether is generally only used when the carseat is forward-facing although there are some exceptions. Tethers are awesome for forward-facing kids, and should always be used regardless of whether the carseat is installed with lower anchors or the seat belt!

Graco Argos 80 Elite Tethered Pria 85 tethered in Subaru Britax Blvd CT Tethered

LATCH has been around for a long time: lower anchors were required hardware in vehicles since 2002. Top tethers have been required in vehicles since 2000. Some earlier vehicles have anchors in them because the manufacturers were that good. When it’s available and parents know what it is, LATCH makes installation easier and parents usually get it right. There’s still room for error, but it’s basically click, click pull tight. However, parents have to be able to find the lower anchors and top tethers and be able to easily attach the connectors before they can tighten the straps. If the lower anchors are positioned too deeply in the bight or at an angle where they’re hard to access with certain styles of connectors, this easy system becomes difficult quickly. It’s important to note that LATCH isn’t considered safer than the vehicle seat belt for installation.

rigid LATCH connector

Rigid lower anchor connector

hook on LATCH connector

Basic hook lower anchor connector

non-handed push-on LATCH connector

push-on lower anchor connector

IIHS researchers used tools to measure the depth of the anchors in the vehicle seat bight and the clearance angle. They also measured how far in from the edge of the bight they are found. Top tether anchors were rated on their locations as well. The goal is to have LATCH anchors that are easy to find right away because they’re clearly labeled and easily accessed. Vehicles receive a Good rating if they have the following:

  • The lower anchors are no more than 3/4 inch deep in the seat bight.
  • The lower anchors are easy to maneuver around. This is defined as having a clearance angle greater than 54 degrees.
  • The force required to attach a standardized tool to the lower anchors is less than 40 pounds. (The tool represents a lower connector of a child seat, though the actual force required when installing a seat varies depending on the specific connector.)
  • Tether anchors are on the vehicle’s rear deck or on the top 85 percent of the seatback. They shouldn’t be at the very bottom of the seatback, under the seat, on the ceiling or on the floor.
  • The area where the tether anchor is found doesn’t have any other hardware that could be confused for the tether anchor. If other hardware is present, then the tether anchor must have a clear label located within 3 inches of it.

Because these are ease-of-use ratings, the IIHS LATCH ratings are NOT safety ratings and do NOT mean you should stop using LATCH for carseat installation. Your back seat may be differently designed than the 2015 models that they tested and as long as you can get the connectors on the anchors, you’re golden. It’s the battle to get them on that IIHS is measuring, not if they stay there. One thing you do need to remember is that there are weight limits for lower LATCH achors that vary from carseat to carseat.

What Can You Do As A Consumer?

Be *that* customer. Be informed. Ask to read the vehicle owner’s manual—make the salesperson work for their commission. The owner’s manual will tell you exactly how many LATCH locations there are and where the tethers are located (look under Child Restraints or LATCH). It will also give you any special directions for using the top tether. A Marginal or Poor LATCH rating shouldn’t preclude you from purchasing a vehicle because you can always use the seat belt to install a carseat. Sometimes knowing a trick or two, like folding the vehicle seat forward a tad to access the lower anchors, can make things easier. It just shows that you have to take more than leather seats and cup holders into consideration when choosing a new vehicle for your family.

MDX 3rd row tether

3rd row tether anchor in Acura MDX

The good ol’ days.

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The car seat world has really come a long way. The advancements and options are incredible compared to what we had even 5 years ago. What was out of reach for many people years ago has become standard now. We still have a long way to go and many people to help and educate but in the grand scheme of things, things are really looking up for child passenger safety.

That being said, there is one thing from “back in the day” that I wish hadn’t disappeared. It’s not the overhead shield. Not the 20lb limit. Nope. It’s the cute covers. Today it’s totally cool to be neutral and match the car interior. Which is fine if you’re into that kind of thing. But for those of us who prefer bright and fun, we miss it. Sure, there’s a few seats out there with some aqua, green, orange, or red accents. But what about the patterns? Fun prints? For me, an out-of-this-world-everything-I-could-ask-for car seat would still go down a couple notches on my Cool Meter if it was only available in black, gray, and tan. Or maybe a mix of the three. With some wallpaper-like dots that look like they should be on my grandmother’s shoes. If my grandmother were still here. See? A gray seat that just makes me miss my grandmother and her ancient shoes! Not cool.

Remember old school Britax? Oh my. I’m embarrassed of my collection of covers I can’t even use anymore. I hang on to them in hopes of someday. Fido. Jonah. Popsicle. Barnum. The list goes on. Really, the only one that’s survived is Cowmoo, which don’t get me wrong, I love me some Cowmooflauge. But how do puppy prints, whales, and adorable rainbow patterns go out of style for kids? We didn’t have whales on our car interior back then. What changed?

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Sure there’s been lots of cute pink/purple flowery patterns that Cosco, Evenflo, and Britax have released (and possibly more companies I’m failing to mention). But there are more cute things in life than flowers!

Let’s put shoes for the elderly on hold and bring back some puppies.