Almost 18 years ago, I started my first websites (Car-Seat.Org and Car-Safety.Org) after I had issues installing my first convertible car seat. My point of emphasis was to answer questions about the new LATCH system, touted to make installing a car seat simple* for parents. Many years later, I was reading a computer hardware specific blog and wondered, why not do the same for car seats? There were plenty of mommy blogs and parenting websites at the time. You could find others about child passenger safety in regard to general information and injury prevention, but there were really no internet magazines that published regularly about car seats as a product. And so, CarseatBlog was created in early 2007.
We set some trends and even broke a few “rules” on the way. Back then, it was taboo to say that you liked or disliked a product. In our training as certified child passenger safety technicians and instructors, we were always told to be neutral and it was always implied that all car seats were created equal. Of course, we all knew better. There were differences, often BIG differences. Meanwhile, professional review blogs and websites had proliferated for everything from automobiles to movies to cellphones, but car seats were widely ignored. Other than a few exceptions like the old Epinions website or some shill websites with shopping portals that just cut and paste information from manufacturers, you couldn’t really find a website dedicated to car seats with expert, in-depth reviews. The NHTSA had started issuing ease-of-use ratings that often seemed subjective, so why couldn’t we publish our own opinions? Thus, our first product review appeared in May of 2008 for the Britax Frontier.
Technically, we didn’t begin to publish regularly until July, 2008, when we moved from WordPress.com to our own website. So, this month is when we mark our “official” 10th anniversary. Ten years ago today, I blogged about how little progress had been made on the LATCH system since it first appeared in the year 2000. Things have changed slowly since then. For example, only five years ago, if a parent wanted to know how long they could use the lower attachments or a top tether, an experienced expert had only a small chance of finding a clear answer for them in an owner’s manual or a 200+ page reference manual that had to be created to try to resolve the confusion. At the same time some organizations lamented the low usage rates of the lower attachments and top tethers, other agencies confused technicians and parents with warnings about exceeding arbitrary default weight limits as low as 40 pounds. There have been many such hurdles getting clear messages to parents.
Today the situation is a little better, as federal standards now require a lower anchorage weight limit to be printed in the manual and on labels. Even if a parent actually notices this limit, they likely don’t realize that it can vary from one product to another, and may even differ for rear-facing and forward-facing use on the same product. While many automakers support higher top tether limits today, it is often difficult for parents to find these limits in manuals. The lower attachment part of LATCH has an alternative with no such weight limit for children: installation with the standard seatbelt system. Unlike the lower attachments, there is no alternative for the top tether with a forward-facing child. In fact, top tether use becomes an even more important safety feature for taller and heavier kids. Nearly 20 years later, it’s still a failure that we can’t just tell parents to use LATCH until a limit of the car seat is reached.
Though these federal standards have stymied some innovations, like rigid LATCH systems for older kids, car seat manufacturers continue to impress. Some flexible LATCH and seatbelt installation systems are as easy to use as the rigid LATCH systems we thought should be commonplace by now. We hope that in another ten years we are still around to tell you how much things have improved! For today, we would like to simply thank all of our readers and our colleagues in the car seat and automobile industries for their support of our ongoing mission on keeping kids safe in cars:-)
THANK YOU from Darren, Kecia, Heather, Jennie, Alicia and Katie! In appreciation of all our wonderful readers, CarseatBlog and our great sponsors will be giving away at least one car seat each week for 10 weeks for our 10th anniversary, so be sure to keep reading!