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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!

Eclipse Safety: Protect Your Eyes!

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By now, most everyone knows about the total solar eclipse in a few weeks on August 21st that passes from coast to coast in the USA. Unfortunately, it’s only a VERY narrow path across the nation that will see up to 2 minutes and 40 seconds of total eclipse. ONLY people in this narrow band during the short time window when the moon completely blocks the sun may look at a total eclipse with their eyes directly, and it is an awesome sight!  For many, this may be a once in a lifetime opportunity, so please be ready to view it safely.

Just to be clear, even if you are very close to the total eclipse band and your local news says you have 90% or even 99% eclipse coverage, you WILL still damage your eyes by looking at the sun for too long!  There are also risks for those lucky enough to be in the total eclipse area.  Even just a second or two before or after the sun is completely blocked by the moon during the total eclipse phase, you will also begin to damage your eyes by looking at the sliver of sun for more than a few moments.  Again, only during the minute or two of total eclipse can those in the path look at the ring of solar light around the moon with the naked eye.

So, if you are not lucky enough to be in the total eclipse path, how do you safely allow your kids and family to view it? There are a few ways, but perhaps the most popular is to use paper “eclipse glasses”. These resemble the old style paper 3D glasses used in theaters or TV broadcasts, but the solar glasses have lenses so dark that you can’t see anything through them except for direct observation of the sun.  If you solar observation or eclipse glasses from a reputable manufacturer who has certified and tested them to the correct standards, you can use them for a partial eclipse or even to look at the full sun any time.  Even if you are in the total eclipse path, these glasses are still handy to watch the event before and after the total eclipse phase, when the moon only partially blocks the sun.  Caution: Even the darkest sunglasses will not protect your eyes from damage, use only products certified for direct solar viewing.

Buyers beware! Like some untested and un-certified carseats that we helped expose on Amazon, sold directly by dubious sellers in China or Asia, there are also questionable eclipse glasses. They might claim to be certified, but do you trust them for your family? I wouldn’t! So, if you are buying some inexpensive paper eclipse glasses, stick with well-known and reputable brands. These include Celestron, MeadeEclipse Shades by Rainbow Symphony and American Paper Optics. These brands have not only been around a long time, but print all the necessary certification and testing information on the glasses, along with their company name and address and other information.  Update: Counterfeits of these trusted brands also exist:

http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/british-columbia/solar-eclipse-glasses-candace-rohrick-1.4247260

Then there are the knockoffs. These might claim to have an ISO and/or CE certification, but often don’t list any company name or testing information at all. Maybe they are safe. Maybe not. Why take a risk? For example, these were mixed into a pack of 10 that I bought on Amazon for $6 and they are definitely questionable.  One lists a certification number and logo, but no company or testing  information is present anywhere on the glasses.  The other has some helpful information, but no ISO standard and no company or testing information:

Direct viewing  through paper eclipse glasses will give you an image the same size as a full moon at night.  You should NEVER use any magnification in conjunction with paper eclipse glasses or other filters not specifically designed and approved for telescopes, binoculars or other zoom lenses.  Celestron makes some 2x magnifcation paper binoculars that will give you a slightly larger image, if you can still find some.  They also make solar filters for many of their telescopes.  I have a different style from another astronomical filter company on my scope-

 

There are other ways to view the eclipse, such as indirect viewing with classic pinhole “cameras”.  NASA has some tips on eclipse safety.  More information can be found through the American Astronomical Society.  The last eclipse visible in the continental USA was in 1979.  The next one will be in 2024, and after that in 2045.  If you are lucky enough to travel to the total eclipse path and have good weather, I can offer one important piece of advice.  This is a relatively short total eclipse, so DON’T spend more than a few moments using your phone or camera.  Take in the awe of the total eclipse directly with your eyes (or safely with a telescope or binoculars) for as long as you can.  I spent too much time grabbing video the first time and won’t make that mistake again!

And please, don’t believe the fear mongers* and stay indoors!  There ARE safe ways to view the partial eclipse that will cover the entire continental USA and most of Canada.  If you are anywhere close to the total eclipse zone and can make the trip, do so!   There is NOTHING like viewing the result of the amazing astronomical coincidence (or divine intervention if you prefer) that made the relative sizes of the sun and moon to appear to be the same from the Earth’s surface when a total eclipse occurs.   Having seen partial eclipses as well as a total eclipse almost 20 years ago, I can attest beyond a doubt that even a 90% coverage zone has absolutely none of the awe of being in the total eclipse path.  I wish you safe travel and clear skies on August 21st, 2017!

 

*Some uninformed governmental and even medical agencies have advised people to stay indoors during an eclipse.  In some Latin American cultures, being outdoors during an eclipse while pregnant is said to cause various maladies to the unborn baby, from birth defects to demonic possession.  While I’m not 100% certain about the demonic possession claim, I can attest that our oldest son suffered no ill health effects from being exposed in the Caribbean eclipse before he was born in 1998…  In fact, just a few days after this year’s eclipse, he’s leaving for college to study Physics, perhaps Astrophysics, after earning straight-As in high school and a 36 ACT score, so don’t believe the myths!

 

 

2017 Chrysler Pacifica Review Video

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2017-2018 Chrysler Pacifica Review: Kids, Carseats & Safety

The new 2017 Chrysler Pacifica is the only minivan to receive an IIHS Top Safety Pick+ award for 2017.  It also received a 5-star overall rating from Safercar.gov and the NHTSA gave it 5-stars in each crash test as well.  That’s why we gave it a Runner-Up award for our Safest Family Minivans and SUVs with 3rd Row Seats.  We do have a few minor concerns, however.  To earn the top award from the IIHS, you have to purchase one of the pricier trim levels and an options package totaling almost $42,000 MSRP with family-friendly 8-passenger seating.  As for carseats, while it’s a nice improvement from the Town & Country minivan, it’s still not quite as kid or carseat-friendly as the 2017 Honda Odyssey.  Is it the best choice for your family?  SafeDad discusses some of the pros and cons in our video review:

Likes:

  • IIHS Top Safety Pick+ (Limited & Touring L Plus w/Advanced SafetyTec group)
  • NHTSA 5-Star Rating
  • 5 sets of LATCH in 8-passenger trim
  • Improved from the Town & Country
  • Interior and Exterior styling
  • Stow ‘n Go is great
  • Easy 3rd row access
  • Cargo space and flexibility
  • Very good performance for a minivan
  • Decent fuel economy; Hybrid available

Dislikes:

  • Very pricey to equip important Advanced SafetyTec features
  • 3rd Row has various issues with child safety seats
  • 2nd row buckle stalks & head restraints can be problematic for certain carseats
  • Narrow 2nd row center seat is difficult for carseats, doesn’t stow in floor
  • Firm front seats, rear seat comfort lags other minivans

Car Seats and Child Seating:

While not as family-friendly as the 2017 Honda Odyssey or even the 2017 Kia Sedona, the Pacifica does accommodate larger families with multiple carseats.  The Car Seat Lady has an exhaustive write-up that fully addresses the second and third row seats in regards to kids and carseats.

Conclusion:

Despite the cost above $40,000, I recommend the Chrysler Pacifica Touring-L Plus trim with the Advance SafetyTec Group and 8-passenger seating options.  This is arguably the safest family hauler you can buy today!  The 2017-2018 Pacifica does have some minor concerns and is still not the ideal minivan for being friendly to carseats, but with Stow ‘n Go seating it is flexible enough for most families.

 

Thank you to Chrysler for providing the 2017 Pacifica used for this review.

SafeDad writes about automobiles, carseats and traffic safety issues at CarseatBlog

Fireworks Safety: Don’t Let Your Kids Do What I Did.

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You know the people.  They matter-of-factly inform you that your concern about carseat safety is ridiculous.  Never mind that motor vehicle crashes are still among the top few causes of fatal injury to children.  After all, they rode without any carseat or seatbelt when they were a kid, and they’re still around to lecture you 40 years later!  Never mind that nearly twice as many kids died each year in motor vehicle crashes in the 1970s than today, even though there were so many fewer vehicles and miles driven back then.  The truth is that they are lucky never to have been in a crash while unrestrained or improperly restrained!

I can say the same about fireworks.  I’m lucky to have all my fingers and eyes intact.  From bottle rocket wars to making our own homemade fireworks from others we disassembled.  I’d say we were also very lucky none of our houses or nearby parks burned!  So, if you let your children use fireworks at all, please just make sure they are properly supervised at all times.   Don’t let your kids do what I did…

 

Safe Kids has some fireworks safety tips as well.  And some statistics from the National Fire Protection Association: