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The Grand and Spectacular?

I must say that Darren puts a lot of pressure on me to write something grand and spectacular!  As I sat savoring my grilled cheese and vanilla shake comfort food at Johnny Rockets this evening after the conference sessions ended, I tried to think about what to write, but I was too busy watching the, ahem, colorful figures of downtown Denver go past, lol.  As for the conference, the only conference I have to compare it to is Lifesavers, to which I’ve been several times.  I decided not to go to Lifesavers this year in part because of its overwhelmingness (is that a word?), thinking that KIM would satisfy my need to connect on a smaller, more roundtable level–that I would actually sit and talk and discuss crash tests and head excursions and the nitty gritty and maybe even network a little.  Well, there was the opportunity to network, but you’d think after 30<smears hand across mouth> years I’d know that I’m truly an introvert at heart and I’m an observer really.  Bah!  The conference itself was similar to Lifesavers in that there were sessions in rooms with chairs; not really a roundtable, small college-class setting like I thought it might be.

So what am I supposed to comment on?  Oh yeah!  News from the car seat manufacturers!  That’s what you’re really here for, isn’t it?

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Random Thoughts at KIM

Today started with the child restraint manufacturers session.   Mostly, we heard about revisions to existing products and manuals.  There really wasn’t much for new products.   At least one of these new products was just announced in a press release, so hopefully I can say more about it in this space very soon! I suspect the new products I hoped to discuss will be on display at the ABC Kids Expo in September.   Heather and I will be there as media attendees, so hopefully we will have much more interesting news and photos to share then!

In the mean time, I’ll discuss what the representative from Chicco USA had to say about some of the most common issues they hear about on the customer service line.

The new Britax Boulevard CS

It didn’t make it to the Kidz In Motion Conference, but it’s now in production!  I evaluated a pre-production model of the Britax Boulevard CS recently and found it to be a very clever feature addition.  Basically, the mechanism senses when the tension you put on the harness adjustment strap is meeting resistance from the child.  As you give a solid pull, it gives a distinct tactile and audible [double] click when the harness is adjusted to an acceptable point.  It’s really that simple.

I am going to wait to make a final opinion until I have a production model, hopefully by the end of the month, but my overall impression was positive.  I will say that it is not foolproof.  For example, it can be fooled by thick winter coats, just as a parent can be fooled.  The manual clearly mentions thick clothing is a concern, as it is in every child restraint.  It’s also possible to have the harness tight enough, even though you haven’t yet heard the click (or maybe you released your pull just a bit too soon).  Parents, advocates and technicians who are familiar with adjusting a 5-point harness correctly may find this to be mostly a gimmick, though still a pretty cool one.   On the other hand, for many parents and caregivers who often leave the harness too loose, I found it to be a very quick and simple way to get a good adjustment of the harness the vast majority of the time.  If you pass your seat to a relative, babysitter or daycare, it’s also a simple way to make sure they get it right when you aren’t there!

KIM–I’m Here!

The first day at the Kidz in Motion conference was an interesting one.  It was a mixture of seeing old faces from Lifesavers and new ones, either because they never made it to Lifesavers or because they got lost in the shuffle of Lifesavers.  KIM is a much smaller conference.  Manufacturers represented so far are Chicco, Evenflo, Graco, SafeGuard, and Sunshine Kids.

To start off the conference, Marilyn Bull presented her study from last year on rear-facing for best protection.  The researchers took children ages 0-23 months from 1988-2003 from the NASS-CDS database of fatal and nonfatal crashes and looked at the risk of injury for rear-facing vs. forward-facing.  What was found is that a 1 year old is 6 times less likely to die if s/he is rear-facing.  They did find in the study that rear-facing provides a significant benefit in side impacts since the head remains protected within the shell of the car seat. 

Need a Tether for Your Toyota?

GM, Ford, and Chrysler have had programs to reimburse dealers to provide a free top tether anchor retrofit in many vehices made in the 1980s and 1990s, until top tethers became standard. While some dealers didn’t know about these programs (or even tried to get the customer to pay anyway), it was still a great program and well-known to many child passenger safety technicians. In turn, we would give the information to parents who could use these retrofit kits in their vehicles.

Unfortunately, such free retrofits are not available on many other makes. While the parts exist, the kits can often cost $10 online or even more at a local dealer. Adding to that, many dealers will charge you a minimum half hour of labor and the total can be $40 or $50 or higher:-(

Enter SafetyBeltSafe U.S.A. In a partnership with Toyota, SafetyBeltSafe U.S.A. can provide a certificate for a parts kit and installation at a local Toyota or Lexus dealership!