Nuna PIPA lite Preview: PIPA Goes on a Diet

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Ever wondered why after decades of popularity, infant carriers still seem heavy?  With all the inserts and a canopy it’s like somehow the upscale models all feel close to 10 pounds. We’ve heard promises of ultra-light, carbon fiber designs for years, but they’ve never appeared.  So what is the absolute lightest weight rear-facing only infant carseat carrier on the market in the USA for 2017?  In September, it will be the nuna PIPA™ lite at only 6 pounds with canopy!  It’s a hair over 5 pounds without canopy, and just under 7 pounds with both the full newborn insert and canopy.

The PIPA lite will be sold at independent Brixy affiliated retailers in the USA for $349.

Here are the basics.  The PIPA lite shaves over 2.5 pounds off the fabulous PIPA.  Lightweight, high performance materials in the shell and foam liners allowed nuna to cut the weight considerably while claiming to have no reduction in crash testing performance!  Notably, they use high strength aluminum and proprietary aeroflex™ EPP energy absorbing foam fused directly to a re-invented semi-flexible thin wall shell.  That means no more breaking of the stiff, white energy absorbing foam layer found in most carseats.  PIPA lite is completely flame retardant free.   Both lite models come with an all-new matching head and body newborn insert.  The patented design with memory foam insert helps PIPA lite to meet the enhanced European 129 safety standard.  They also include an extra set of dye-free GOTS™ certified organic cotton newborn inserts and harness/crotch strap covers inside the box!

PIPA lite carrier specs:

  • Weight limit: 4-32 lbs
  • Height limit: up to 32″
  • Inside depth: ~14″
  • Inside hip width: ~9″
  • Inside  height: ~18″
  • Buckle slot depth: 7″
  • Harness slot heights: 6″, 7.5″, 9.5″
  • Outside dimensions: 27.25″ x 17.5″w x 22.5″h
  • Carrier weight: 5.3 lbs, 6.1 lbs with canopy
  • Carrier + insert weight: 6.7 lbs with canopy
  • Handle positions: 3
  • Harness height positions: 3 (2 using insert)
  • Expiration: 7 years

The lite models use the same steel-reinforced PIPA base as the original model.   That includes the dual bubble recline indicators, load stability leg and belt lock-off system, plus the wonderful rigid LATCH attachments.  LATCH guides are included in the box to help with installation.

 

This is a pretty amazing feat of engineering, to be honest.  As with every single carseat design on the market, there are always tradeoffs and compromises. I think those with the PIPA lite are worth the reduction in weight!  Notably, the lite must be installed with the PIPA base.  They feature a single, fixed crotch strap position.  This is not a matter of cost.  It turns out that carrier-only installation and extra slots in the shell require considerably more reinforcement to meet nuna’s stringent safety standards.  That would mean adding significant weight back into the carrier design.  For parents who must have either or both of those features, the original PIPA will still be available and is a little less expensive, too!  Finally, the lite will not be FAA certified initially, but may be in the future.

Whether it’s the sleek, ultramodern design with leatherette handle or the 6 pound weight, I think the PIPA lite will be a great addition to the original PIPA that is one of our 2017 Recommended Carseats and an Editors’ Pick.  You can find our full review of the original PIPA here.  We will have a full review of the PIPA lite within the next month or so at CarseatBlog.

Editor’s Note: Updated upon request to remove information saved for future press release

 

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Everything We Thought We Knew About Rear-Facing Is Being Questioned

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Has the time come to reverse our stance on extended rear-facing and turn children forward-facing at age 1 like we used to in the olden days?

The simple answer, for the moment is, NO.

What’s going on?

Dorel Juvenile Group, the parent company of Safety 1st, Maxi-Cosi, Cosco and other juvenile brands recently issued a position statement on their website explaining why they’ve stepped away from their recent age 2 minimum mandate for forward-facing in their convertible carseats. The short story is that they hired a statistician, Jeya Padmanaban, to replicate the original 2007 study upon which all our assumptions of rear-facing (RF) safety statistics in the USA are based. Not only was Padmanaban unable to replicate the results using the same data set as the original authors of the study, her conclusions actually led to opposite findings. She presented her findings to NHTSA and to the journal Injury Prevention. This prompted some of the original authors of the 2007 study to re-examine their analyses. When their attempts to replicate the analysis also fell short, it became apparent that there were real flaws in the study. Recently, the journal Injury Prevention issued an “Expression of Concern” regarding the original study. From the statement: “Specifically, they believe that survey weights were improperly handled in the initial analysis, which caused the apparent sample size to be larger than the actual sample size. This resulted in inflated statistical significance.” We are currently waiting for the revised study analysis and results to be reviewed and released. We will update this article when that information becomes available.

What do we know at this point?

The anatomy of the developing pediatric cervical spine predisposes children to injury of the upper cervical spine. In general, the younger the child, the more likely an upper cervical spine injury will occur. The neural arches in the pediatric cervical spine fuse posteriorly by 2–3 years of age. Until that time, the vertebrae are made of cartilage and bone and held in place by ligaments; it’s all very pliable and elastic. Traveling in the rear-facing position is inherently safe and is critical for babies less than 1 year old. (Please also read Why Rear-Facing Is Better: Your RF Link Guide, an evidence-based justification for rear-facing.)

Even though the statistics from the 2007 study are being disputed, there is agreement that rear-facing carseats cradle the head, neck, and spine to protect them in frontal and side impact crashes. We know it’s safe from basic physics, an understanding of crash dynamics and results from other countries, like Sweden.

What’s in question?

Since 2007 when the Henary, Sherwood, Crandall, et. al. study was first published, child passenger safety advocates have been told that rear-facing is 500% (or 5 times) safer than forward-facing for children under age 2. Now that statistic appears not to be true, at least not based on the data used in this one study which analyzed injuries to fewer than 300 kids between 1988-2003. Having such a small sample size makes drawing broad conclusions very difficult. Large sample sizes generally result in more accurate and reliable conclusions. We have had our own concerns about the original study and how the “5x safer” figure is presented to parents. We still don’t know exactly how rear-facing compares quantitatively to forward-facing in most situations.

There are other methods, but it can also be difficult to draw broad conclusions from specific case studies or proprietary crash testing done by manufacturers. All of this underscores the need for a more modern crash test sled and better studies on the subject. Modern vehicles simply don’t have a back seat that’s a flat bench seat of a ’70s Chevy Impala with lap-only seat belts and no floor like the standard crash test bench does. Modern vehicles have very different back seat cushions, front seats that crowd the back seat, lap/shoulder seatbelts, and they all have floors too!

What are the risks to a rear-facing child?

Head Injuries in Rear-Facing Carseats

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You’ve heard Rear-Facing (RF) is safest. Maybe you’ve heard that RF car seats provide the best head protection. That’s probably true, in general. Maybe someone told you RF is “5x safer”. That statistic is based on only one study that used limited data and covers very specific circumstances, so it may or may not apply to your situation. What’s important is that rear-facing is very safe when the child is within the limits allowed by the carseat. In fact, simply using any age-appropriate carseat according to both instructions and state laws will be very effective at reducing the risk of severe injuries and fatalities.

Very safe in an upright convertible carseat!

So, what’s the deal? It turns out, that while rare, moderate and serious head injuries can happen in rear-facing carseats. There are typically 3 possible causes.

  1.  The top of a baby’s head might move out of the protection of the carseat shell and strike a front vehicle seat, pillar or console. This may be more of a concern with rear-facing only infant carriers, especially when fully reclined with a baby near the height limit.
  2.  The carseat shell strikes part of the vehicle interior, possibly resulting in the back or side of baby’s head hitting the inside of the carseat with enough force to cause a contusion or other injury.
  3.  In unusually energetic frontal crashes, the carseat could rebound with enough energy that the front of baby’s head may strike part of the vehicle interior.

Don’t Panic! High speed and very energetic crashes are not common, but can result in serious injuries, especially when misuse or non-use of restraints are involved. The good news is that if you are using a carseat and have installed and adjusted it as best as you can, you probably have very little to worry about.

So what can you do to reduce the chance of injury? The same simple things we’ve always told you and that you’ve probably done:

  • Install and use your carseat in the back seat, according to manufacturer instructions AND state law
  • Drive unimpaired and undistracted

How can you further reduce the chance of head injury in rear-facing carseats?

  1. In particular, make sure your carseat installation and harness are tight.
  2. If your child is approaching the stated rear-facing height limit, or when the top of the head is 1″ from the top of the carseat shell, then a taller seat may be necessary.
  3. For older babies and toddlers who have good head and neck control, install your carseat as upright as allowed by the instructions.
  4. If your carseat offers a load leg or anti-rebound feature, use it.
  5. Choose a Recommended Carseat that has a layer of energy-absorbing foam both behind and on the side of baby’s head.  Deep side wings and load legs (on certain infant seat bases) can also be advantageous.
  6. When shopping for a newer vehicle, select one with good safety ratings made in 2011 or later, when side-impact airbags and stability control are usually standard features.

“Bracing”, or having the rear-facing carseat touching the front vehicle seat, is a very complex topic.  Some vehicles don’t allow this at all, due to passenger airbag sensors.  In other vehicles, there are various conflicting factors to consider.  If allowed by both the vehicle and carseat owners manuals, bracing could potentially reduce the risk of the carseat energetically striking the vehicle seat back and related head injury (point B above).  On the other hand, it could increase the risk of direct head contact for an older, taller baby ramping out of the infant seat and striking a part of the vehicle interior (point A above). This is especially a concern with rear-facing only infant carseats that have shorter shells, tend to sit lower in the vehicle and tend to be installed with more recline than a rear-facing convertible carseat.

Above all, try not to lose sleep over this!  Loose installations, loose harnesses, too much recline and exceeding the rear-facing height limits are always a potential concern, so just make sure you read the instructions and consult a child passenger safety technician if you have any questions about your installation and usage of child restraints.

2017 Recommended Carseats Update

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CarseatBlog Helps You Find the Safest and Best Car Seats for 2017

Once or twice a year we make incremental updates to our Recommended Carseats award list. A couple aging products are usually removed, perhaps one or two new ones were added.  We’ve also added jump links and an improved pull-down menu to allow easier access to each section of the list. The intent of this list is not to exclude the many fine carseats that didn’t make our cut, but instead to help consumers narrow down their choices to models we personally recommend. These are likely to work well with the widest range of children and vehicles.  In order to have a reasonable list that doesn’t include dozens of products in each category, we make tough choices to include fewer products in each category that we feel are the best places to start your search.

At the bottom is our helpful short list of Editors’ Picks, an award for our favorite models. This more exclusive list narrows down our larger number of Recommended Carseats to our top choices. For most categories, we also select our top picks by budget category, limiting the selections to just one or two carseats in each price range. If you are in a hurry and want to know what to buy, this is the place to start! While premium carseats usually offer more features and tend to be easier to use, our midrange and budget picks are also very safe choices that we would use without hesitation for our own children.

If your favorite carseat didn’t make one of our lists, please don’t despair! We’re not saying these are the best choices for every situation.  Our lists are simply a good starting point for consumers who are carseat or booster shopping.  And since there are no guarantees, we always recommend purchasing at a local store with a no-questions-asked free return policy of at least 30 days, or an online store like Amazon.com that offers free shipping and free returns on most carseats they sell directly.  Sometimes, even our favorite products won’t work for a particular family, so you don’t want to pay a restocking fee or $50 to ship it back!

We acknowledge that many certified child passenger safety technicians have had it ingrained upon them that they are supposed to act completely neutral toward child restraints. All current seats pass the same FMVSS 213 minimum testing standards, they are all safe when used correctly, etc., etc. In the course to become certified, most techs were told never to tell a parent that one child seat or brand is better than any other. Instead, technicians are often instructed to tell parents that the best seat is the one that fits their child, installs well in their vehicle and is easiest for them to use correctly. We agree.

However, the reality is that once you’ve installed even a dozen different seats, you quickly learn that there are real differences. Some child restraints do tend to install better in general, while some really are easier to use in general. Features like lockoffs for seatbelt installations and premium push-on lower LATCH connectors do make a difference in the vast majority of installations, but that doesn’t mean that every seat that lacks those features is not worthy of your consideration.

With all that said, please take our recommendations with a grain of salt. They are merely opinions, after all, and our criteria may vary from yours or those you find elsewhere online or in print. Despite our best efforts, we recognize that no list of this type can be completely objective. And while our team of child passenger safety experts thoughtfully considered the pros and cons of each seat and combined that with our considerable hands-on experience with each product – there’s no crash testing involved. Some seats were omitted only because we opted to include a similar model from the same manufacturer. For others, we simply didn’t have enough experience with the product yet to form an opinion. There are a number of great products that we have reviewed, but just missed the cut for our awards and are still worthy of consideration. Conversely, we recognize that some models we recommend won’t work well for everyone.

We hope you will use and share our recommendations as useful shopping advice in your search for the best carseat for your needs!