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Teens Create Road Safety PSAs

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For the past three years, the National Road Safety Foundation and the Chicago Auto Show have sponsored a contest called Drive Safe Chicago for teenagers to create Public Service Announcements about distracted driving. This year’s winner, 17-year-old Hannah Christy, created a PSA about drowsy driving, something teens pulling all-nighters might be familiar with.

Christy and the other finalists worked with professional film crews to create their spots, and Christy’s will be featured later this year on TV stations around the country.

Christy and the other finalists worked with professional film crews to create their spots, and Christy’s will be featured later this year on TV stations around the country.

Distracted driving kills more than 3,300 people each year. People typically think of “distracted driving” as “cell-phone use,” but it can encompass much more, as Christy demonstrated in her PSA. Last year’s winner focused on a teen driver whose car was packed with loud, distracting friends.

The Drive Safe Chicago campaign allows teens to offer a fresh voice in a field usually dominated by adults, and other teens will likely respond better to messages coming from their peers.

The National Road Safety Foundation has also sponsored a PSA contest in conjunction with the Atlanta Auto Show, and will be teaming with the Los Angeles Auto Show this year. There’s still time to enter the LA contest, so if you live around there and have teenagers interested in safety, see if they want to enter. Maybe your kid can save someone’s life.

Review: 2017 GMC Sierra 1500 Crew Cab – Haul Your Cargo and Your Kids

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People don’t often think of pickup trucks as “family vehicles,” but there’s a lot to be said for them if you look for the right features. There’s a wide range of trucks out there, from those with no back seat (standard cab), to those with an unusable back seat (many extended cabs), to those with back seats so large you could camp in them. The former might be tough to use with kids, but the latter can be great, allowing you to safely haul your kids and have plenty of room for cargo and/or horsepower for towing.

I recently had the opportunity to drive a 2016/2017 GMC Sierra 1500 4WD Crew Cab SLT for a week, and I could easily see it being someone’s family car.

Vehicle Features and Driving

We’ll get to the carseat stuff in a minute, but first let’s explore the Sierra’s features and what it’s like to drive it.

The Sierra gets a 5-star overall rating in the government crash tests. That includes 5-star ratings for driver and passenger frontal crash, driver and passenger side crash, and a 4-star rating for rollovers. It receives ratings of Good in most IIHS categories, with the exception of the small overlap test (Moderate), headlights (Acceptable), and LATCH ease of use (Poor—we’ll get to this later). Regarding the headlight category, only one large pickup rated better than the Sierra—the other trucks all got marginal or poor ratings.

The Sierra comes with the safety features one would expect: Antilock breaks, a full range of airbags, a tire pressure monitoring system, etc. The model I drove had some extra safety features, including a forward collision alert system, parking assist, and a lane departure assist system.

The lane departure feature was really neat. I’ve driven a lot of cars that alert you when you’re drifting out of a lane, but this takes it one step further. If the vehicle detects that you’re leaving a lane (while not actively steering and with no turn signal on), it gently turns the steering wheel on its own to keep you in the lane. This is a very subtle process, and I had to test it several times to fully understand what it was doing, but it really did help keep the truck where it was supposed to be, in large part because the steering wheel moving on its own definitely grabs your attention.

I’m the first to admit that I’m not a “big car” person. The bigger the vehicle, the more I worry I’m going to run into something, especially when parking it. It’s the kind of fear that subsides over time, but I was still a bit nervous in the mere week I drove the Sierra. That said, I didn’t run into anything, nor did I have any trouble driving or maneuvering the truck.

Many pickup trucks, especially at higher trim levels, can look and feel like luxury cars inside, and that’s true of the Sierra, too. But make no mistake: It’s a pickup truck, and it feels like one when driving. It took a good depression on the gas pedal to get it going, and the acceleration took a while. That’s probably not surprising, but I drove the Sierra right after testing out the 2016 Subaru Forester, which accelerates like mad with just a feather’s touch, so it seemed like a big contrast. The ride was a bit bumpier than what you’d experience in a typical sedan, but again, that comes with the territory. Overall it was actually smoother than I expected it to be.

The Sierra definitely felt sturdy, and once I got used to the way it drove it was pretty fun, even for someone who gets nervous with big vehicles. I even parked it somewhat decently! (I’ve written about my parking woes in the past.)

Carseats and Kids

Graco 4Ever Review: Is a 4-In-1 carseat your new BFF?

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Graco 4Ever All-in-1 Car Seat: A 2017 Editors’ Pick from Birth to Seatbelt

Like the Fountain of Youth or the Holy Grail, a true multi-function “forever” car seat has been eluding desperate searchers for years. Yes, there already are seats that rear-face, forward-face, and turn into a booster, but they are often lacking in at least one function, and when that happens, what’s the point?

So when Graco came out with the 4Ever All-in-1, which rear-faces, forward-faces, and turns into both a high-back and backless booster, it was easy to get excited but also easy to have reservations. Will it really do what it claims, and do it well?

Short answer: Yes!  The Graco 4Ever is now a CarseatBlog Recommended Carseat and a 2017 Editors’ Pick.  (Updated January, 2017)

4Ever Specs & Features:

  • Rear-facing: 4-40 lbs.
  • Forward-facing (with harness): 20-65 lbs and 49″ or less
  • High-back booster: 30-100 lbs. and 38-57″
  • Backless booster: 40-120 lbs. and 40-57″
  • No-rethread harness with 10 position headrest
  • Adjustable base with 6 recline positions (3 for rear-facing, 3 for forward-facing)
  • Easy-to-read bubble level indicator
  • Steel reinforced frame
  • Energy-absorbing EPS foam
  • Premium push-on lower LATCH anchor connectors (LATCH limit: Child weight of 42 lbs.)
  • Dual integrated cup holders (simple assembly required)

2017 4Ever Fashions:

Studio Azalea Skylar Tuscan Cougar Basin Matrix Cameron Kylie Nova

Measurements:

  • Lowest harness height (with infant insert): 7″
  • Highest harness height: 18″
  • Tallest booster height: 18.75″
  • Internal rear-facing height: 27.5″ (that’s one inch below the headrest adjustment lever of 28.5″)
  • Crotch buckle positions: 5″ and 7″
  • Seating depth: 12″
  • Internal seat width: 13″
  • Widest external seat width: 19.5″ (at cup holders)
  • Widest point on base: 15″
  • Narrowest point on base: 11.5″ (at very front and very back)

Installation/Fit to Vehicle:

In general, the 4Ever is an easy-to-install seat, which is always a good thing. It installed nicely in rear-facing and forward-facing modes in the vehicles I tried it in (2010 Honda Odyssey and 2014 Honda Civic) with the seatbelt and with LATCH. The belt paths are clearly labeled and color-coded both on the seat and in the manual (blue for rear-facing, orange for forward-facing, green for booster). The LATCH and tether straps are easy to loosen when you need to, but stay secure otherwise. My particular model has the premium push-on LATCH connectors, but the manual includes a drawing/description of the hook style, too, so it’s possible that other models will come with those.

For LATCH installations, it’s important to note that the lower anchors need to be discontinued once the child reaches 42 lbs., in accordance with the new LATCH regulations. For kids over 42 lbs., install the 4Ever with seatbelt and tether.

Unlike some of the other Graco convertibles (like the MySize65/Size4Me) that have separate LATCH straps for the rear-facing and forward-facing beltpaths, the 4Ever only has one, which means it needs to be manually switched between modes. The process isn’t as complicated as it is on some seats, but not as easy as on some others. It would have been nice to see the two separate LATCH straps on this model, too.

Here’s a video showing how to switch the LATCH straps from forward-facing to rear-facing modes, how to tighten the LATCH straps rear-facing, and how to put a rear-facing child into the seat:

And No Carnage from a Bare Tree: Holiday Safety Tips

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burning-tree‘Tis the season for falling off ladders, lighting trees on fire, and cutting fingers on broken ornaments…which is why safety should be at the top of your holiday list. The Consumer Product Safety Commission has created 12 Ways to Celebrate Safely to help you avoid perils this holiday season:

12. Take special care with sharp, weighted, or breakable decorations. Lacerations were among the top reported decoration-related injuries last year.

11. Avoid trimmings that resemble food or candy that may tempt a child to mouth or swallow them.

10. Place decorations with small removable parts that can pose a choking hazard to young children out of reach.

9. Purchase only holiday light sets that bear the marking of a safety testing laboratory.

8. Examine new and old light sets for damage. Discard sets with cracked or broken sockets, frayed or exposed wires, and loose connections.

7. Keep burning candles in sight and away from places where kids and pets can knock them over.

6. Place lighted candles away from items that can catch fire, such as trees, other evergreens, decorations, curtains and furniture.

5. Look for a label that reads “fire resistant” when purchasing an artificial tree. Check live trees for freshness.

cpsc-tree

4. Place live Christmas trees away from heat sources, and keep trees well watered.

3. Watch this dramatic fire demonstration of what happens when a dry tree comes in contact with a heat source.

2. Use caution on ladders. Read our Ladder Safety 101 blog for tips to prevent ladder falls this season. 41% of holiday decorating injuries involve falls. Falls from ladders account for about half of these incidents.

1. Start with safety in mind. Download and follow CPSC’s Holiday Decoration Safety Tips guide.