New FAA Rule Regarding Child Restraints


airplane stockDon’t get too excited. As much as I’d like to say that the FAA’s new rule regarding child restraints is to require them for children under 2…I can’t. Instead the new rule, which goes into effect on October 30 and requires full compliance by February 29, 2016, probably won’t make much of a difference for most parents.

Way back in 2012, the FAA Modernization and Reform Act required the FAA to require airlines to post the maximum width for a child restraint to fit in its airplanes. Now, three years later, that rule has been amended and finalized with some changes. Instead of airlines posting the maximum width of the child restraint, they will now need to publish the width of the narrowest and widest seats in each class.

In a way, that’s a good thing. Because the contours of child restraints can vary so much (some are kind of boxy, some taper, etc.) a one-size-fits-all measurement might not be accurate or even helpful. There are a lot of seats that might be wider than an airline’s stated limit but that will still fit. It would be unfortunate for a flight attendant to declare a child restraint too wide without giving the parent a chance to try it. (Most airline seats have movable armrests, and putting those up means nearly any child restraint approved for airline use will work.)

The new regulation—requiring airlines to post the width of their seats—gives parents some more flexibility. Maybe they’ll decide to pay a little more for a wider seat, or maybe they’ll just breathe a sigh of relief knowing that their child restraint is close to that number, and will surely fit once the armrests are raised.

JetBlue compaison chart

There are some downsides, though. The measurements will be taken between the inside edge of the armrests, meaning that in most cases, people will still be given a sort of unrealistic idea of what can actually fit. I understand that, though. Measuring with armrests up (would it just be one armrest or both?) would be kind of nebulous.

This will also still lead to confusion among parents who see that an airline seat’s measurement is, say 16″ but their child restraint is 17″. That’s probably not any more or less confusing than giving parents the “maximum width” their child restraint can be, but it certainly isn’t any more helpful. Will the child restraint fit or not? (Answer: Probably.) I’m sure there will also be instances where a parent sees that the seat’s measurement is smaller than their child restraint’s measurement and decide to not take the restraint at all.

In the Child Passenger Safety world, we’ve gotten used to regulations that don’t really help anything. It’s taken more than a decade to finally get LATCH standards more-or-less uniform, and even those still don’t make complete sense. The FAA seems to have taken a long time nit-picking over a relatively minor issue that doesn’t even come close to addressing the real issue: Airlines need to make air travel easier for people with child restraints, and the FAA should require that all passengers have seats of their own on the plane.

You can read more CarseatBlog posts about children on aircraft here:

Travel Carseats: The Ultimate Guide to What You Want to Take on A Plane

Flying with a Car Seat? Know Your Rights

An Open Letter to the FAA

Lap Babies on Airplane—A Warning All Parents Must See

Flying with Kids & Carseats – the checked carseat controversy

And here is a list of our recommended seats for airline travel:

Recommended Seats for Airplane Travel


New Graco Extend2Fit Convertible Preview – Extended Rear-Facing with Extended Legroom!


Are you tired of convertible seats that don’t last forever in the rear-facing position?  Sick of products that lack decent legroom for your leggy rear-facing 3-year-old? Frustrated by expensive carseats that don’t even have dual integrated cup holders? Well, your troubles are soon to be over! 

Okay, being serious for a moment – we won’t even lay eyes on this seat for another 2 weeks when it’s unveiled at the ABC Kids Expo but I’m going to go out on a limb (or maybe I should say “on an extension”) and predict that this seat is going to be a walk-off homerun for Graco and for the legions of parents who are passionate about extended rear-facing!

Graco Extend2Fit - stock

Competition? What Competition! You have to see it to believe it!  

This is Graco’s first carseat to be rated to 50 pounds in the rear-facing position. And while 50 lbs. RF might be overkill for a lot of kids, if you are the parent of a mega-sized toddler – this has got to be music to your ears! Plus, we already know how tall the other height-adjustable Graco convertible seats are (Size4me and clones, 4Ever, Milestone, etc.) so if Extend2Fit is a similar height – wow! That is going to be one very long-lasting convertible seat.

But wait, there’s more!

They could have stopped right there and that would have been enough to sway a lot of consumers but they took it to the next level by doing something that no other CR manufacturer has ever done with a convertible seat before. They added a 4-position extension panel that provides up to 5 inches of additional legroom in the rear-facing position! Honestly, if that doesn’t silence the rear-facing critics who can’t seem to get over the horrible injustice of having a RF child sit with his legs bent, or crossed, or propped up – I guess nothing will.

So, how much would you pay for this awesome new carseat?  $1500?  $464.72?  $29?

MSRP will be $199! Which is really good news if you were willing to spend $1500 or $464.72 and kinda bad news if you were only willing to spend $29.

Act now and you get 2 free cupholders!

Well, actually you can’t act now because the seat won’t be available until January 2016. And technically the dual cupholders are integrated into the shell and come with the seat but it sounded good so I had to throw that in there. 😉

Graco Extend2Fit Specs & Features:

  • Rear-facing 4-50 lbs., up to 45″ tall
  • Forward-facing 22-65 lbs., up to 49″
  • 10-position adjustable headrest
  • 6 recline positions (4 for RF; 3 for FF; 1 of the RF reclines can be used FF)
  • 4-position extension panel provides up to 5” of extra legroom
  • Steel reinforced frame
  • Fuss Free harness storage holds the buckles out of the way during loading and unloading
  • Premium push-on LATCH connectors
  • Machine washable cover
  • Dual integrated cup holders
  • 10 year lifespan before expiration

I guess the only thing left to say is…



Safe and (Relatively) Inexpensive Newer Cars


Teen rdriversMany families put a high priority on vehicle safety for their kids.  Unfortunately, for various valid reasons, many are not able to go out and buy a brand new car with the latest safety features.  Perhaps others are buying a car for a teen or college student and want something safe, but don’t want them wrecking even a newer car!  Last year, the IIHS recently evaluated hundreds of cars to produce a list of models recommended for teens and recently updated the Safe and Affordable Used Vehicle Recommendations for Teens list for 2015.

I have somewhat different criteria for my teen driver.  For example, while I also exclude the smallest sub-compact and “micro” vehicles, I have no issue with my teen driving a compact sedan if it is close to 3,000 lbs., as long is it has great crash test results.  While compact cars do give up a little in terms of weight in a frontal crash, they are generally more maneuverable and easier to handle and park.  That’s a big deal for new drivers.  Not to mention the lower cost up front and for gasoline!  I am also more concerned about having top results in all the actual crash tests, including the new IIHS small overlap test, and less concerned about certain other results.

Unfortunately, the IIHS excludes compact sedans, even top models with many safety features and decent all-around crash test scores, including their own small overlap test.  In fact, some models they recommend do poorly in this newer test.  Most of their recommendations are well over $10,000.


My Requirements?

  1. 2011 or newer.  That means a much greater chance of finding critical safety features like stability control and side curtain airbags.  Plus this is the year the NHTSA began crash testing with its newer crash test system that doesn’t compare to models before 2011.
  2. Good visibility and handling.
  3. Stability control and side-curtain airbags.
  4. 4-star or better NHTSA overall rating
  5. No “Marginal” or “Poor” IIHS crash test results in ANY test, including the newer small overlap test
  6. No “2-star” or “1-star” ratings in any individual NHTSA crash test or rollover rating.
  7. Around $10,000 or less to buy (or lease over 3 years).
  8. No minicars, sub-compacts or any model below 2,750lbs.  Weight is a bad thing on roads, I know.  More mass means more kinetic energy and more wasted fuel.  But when the other guy is driving a 5,000 lb. truck, the smallest cars become splatter.  On the flip side, smaller cars are easier to drive and generally offer better handling as well.


What Can You Learn from an Oversized Dummy?


Not much, apparently. At least not in this case.

Side-Impact Test Q3 in RFO

Photo Credit: Consumer Reports

Recent feasibility testing of NHTSA’s proposed side-impact test, conducted by Consumer Reports, has found that the Q3 side-impact test dummy isn’t useful in evaluating the protection offered by rear-facing only seats (aka infant carseats). The reason? This dummy, which is meant to be the size of an average 3-year-old, is too big to fit in these seats. The head of the Q3 dummy extends beyond the protective confines of the shell. Clearly that’s bad from an injury risk standpoint. You never want the top of a child’s head to extend above the top of a rear-facing carseat. And you would think that this would translate into very high injury readings in the crash testing – but they actually found the opposite result. What the… ????

“Our tests showed that when the dummy’s head extended beyond the shell portion of the infant seat, the injury data also tended to be lower—despite the greater injury risk. Therefore, based on this data, we concluded that side-impact protection on these seats might be overrated. This is because, while the design would not actually provide improved impact safety, the data would be skewed by allowing for greater head excursion outside of the shell.”

Read the full article here:  More Change Needed for Car Seat Side-Impact Protection

Based on their findings, we agree with Consumer Reports that using the Q3 dummy in NHTSA’s proposed Side-Impact Test would be of little value in determining the protection offered by rear-facing only infant seats. Q3 is well-suited to test convertible seats in the rear-facing position but a smaller dummy that is similarly instrumented should be utilized to appropriately gauge the SIP provided by rear-facing only child restraints. We never want to unintentionally create a situation where manufacturers are “designing for the test” at the expense of performance in real world side-impact crashes.

To learn more about NHTSA’s proposed Side-Impact Test see our comprehensive article here:  NHTSA’s Proposed Side-Impact Testing Standard – the good, the bad and the interesting