Author Archive

Finding a Child Passenger Safety Technician (CPST)

Facebooktwittergoogle_plusmailFacebooktwittergoogle_plusmail

We recently held a big child passenger safety education and carseat giveaway event in my city where we gave out 241 carseats. It was awesome reaching so many families and making sure that their children are riding more safely than before they came to the event. Many of the parents told me they had only heard of the event that morning on the news, which was great, but we had been heavily advertising it on social media and at the school where it was held. I was disheartened because we had been heavily advertising the event, but we hadn’t hit our target audience. How can parents find the help they need?

We’re fortunate to have regular monthly carseat checkup events in my city. I know in many places, weather makes it so that events have to be cancelled during the colder months (we dial it back during the hot months!). That means parents, caregivers, and professionals who work with them come to expect these events and know they’ll be taking place. But what about other locations around the country? How do you find CPS technicians or events to help you?

I bet you’ve heard to go to the fire department or police station to have your carseat installed; however, many firefighters and police officers aren’t trained. In fact, they’ve probably installed their own carseats incorrectly! In my major city, we have 0-zero-zilch currently certified firefighters and 1 city police officer, though we do have many highway patrol and school police officers certified as technicians. Though every community is different, we’re pretty average when I compare notes with other CPSTs around the country. Some communities may have a few firefighters and cops trained, but on the whole, the budget isn’t there to pay them for events.

So how do you find someone in your community to help you with your carseats if you can’t run to the nearest fire or police station?

First, look for a Safe Kids coalition near you; they will often have checkup events. Not every coalition has checkup events, though, and not every checkup event is sponsored by a Safe Kids coalition. As long as you have certified technicians on hand to check your carseats and educate you, you’re good to go!

Even though police and firefighters may not be trained as CPS technicians, they partner with us because they want everyone to be safe. Following their social media pages makes it more likely that you’ll hear about which events they support.

Following the social media pages of local mom and playgroup groups can give you a heads-up on events happening too, though you have to be really careful because it seems bad child passenger safety advice on these groups spreads like wildfire while good advice spreads like a molasses spill. However, when we have events, we try to spread the word to these groups because we want *you* to know about them.

One way you can find carseat help is through an inspection station. Inspection stations are “permanent” locations where you usually make an appointment with a CPST. They can be anywhere that has a CPST on staff, such as a retail store, AAA location, hospital, or a family resource center.

For those of you who prefer to have a customized experience at home, there are techs who will take an appointment with you, either for free or for a fee. Usually you’ll hear about these techs through word-of-mouth or they’ll filter through your social media feeds. Another way to find a tech is on the National Child Passenger Safety Certification website. The key to using this search engine is to be as broad as possible; the more specific you are, the more likely you are to confuse the search and not find someone near you. For instance, enter your county and state only instead of your zip code. CPS Certification also posts facts and other tidbits on their Facebook page: www.facebook.com/CPScert .

The internet is obviously a way to get personalized help with your carseats and our forums at car-seat.org are the OG place where techs used to hang out. There are Facebook groups to handle carseat questions, but you have to weed through well-intentioned responses that may not have accurate information. Some manufacturers offer help in the form of video chat so you can show their techs up close your carseat installation and child fitting in their carseat. Since more manufacturers add this support feature each year, check with yours but Evenflo and Dorel are currently two of the manufacturers who actively use it.

There are a tens of thousands of us across the US and Canada (and around the world!) who want to help you keep your children safe as you drive each day. We’re out there and we’re not hiding!

2019 Graco Grows4Me 4-in-1 Carseat Review

Facebooktwittergoogle_plusmailFacebooktwittergoogle_plusmail

2019 Graco Grows4Me All-in-One Carseat Review

Graco is back with another carseat based on the popular 4Ever. And why not? It’s a formula that works: easy to use, easy to install, and it fits most kids well for many years. The new Grows4Me is similar but it has just one cup holder and more basic padding than the 4Ever. Just don’t get Grows4me mixed up with the Graco Size4Me, because they’re very different seats!

Weight and Height Limits:

  • Rear-facing: 5-40 lbs. AND child’s head is 1” below gray adjustment handle
  • Forward-facing: 22-65 lbs., 49” or less
  • Highback booster: 40-100 lbs., 43-57”, at least 4 years old
  • Backless booster: 40-110 lbs., 43-57”, at least 4 years old

Grows4Me Overview:

  • Adjustable base with 3 rear-facing recline positions, 3 forward-facing recline positions, 1 booster recline position
  • No re-thread harness with 10 position headrest
  • Easy-to-read ball level indicator
  • Energy-absorbing EPS foam
  • On-board harness storage for booster mode
  • Steel reinforced frame
  • One cup holder
  • Machine-washable cover
  • 10 yr lifespan before seat expires
  • MSRP $249

 

Grows4Me Measurements:

Harness height: ~7”-18”
Shoulder belt guide height: 19”
External widest point: 19”
Shell height with headrest: 30”
Shoulder width: 12”
Crotch strap depth: inner slot: 2 ½ ” with padding, 4 ½” without padding; outer slot: 6 ½”
Seat depth: 13”
Seat weight: 21.8 lbs. with padding, 21.5 lbs. without padding
Don’t forget about our comparison database!

Installation:

Load Legs 101: What Is a Load Leg?

Facebooktwittergoogle_plusmailFacebooktwittergoogle_plusmail
Load Legs—Foot Props—Stability Legs

Load legs were first introduced to Americans in 2004 by Britax on the Baby Safe, a short-lived rear-facing only seat popular in Europe, but we weren’t quite ready for it. It had an anti-rebound bar, rigid LATCH, and a load leg: things American consumers simply didn’t understand, or want to pay the hefty price tag for at the time. Today’s shoppers are more sophisticated and researching such features is second-nature now.

Let’s address why load legs—aka foot props or stability legs—exist. Here on this side of the Atlantic, we find them on rear-facing only infant seats, but in Europe, you will find them also on forward-facing carseats. Load legs limit downward rotation toward the front of the vehicle. Statistically, frontal crashes account for the majority of crashes so we design carseats to protect children in them. Carseats move toward the point of impact, so rear-facing carseats rotate down and toward the front of the vehicle in a frontal impact.

According to FMVSS 213, the safety standard to which all U.S. carseats are tested, rear-facing carseats may rotate downward up to 70° and still pass testing. During this downward rotation, the child will also ramp up (slide up) the carseat. As the child slides up the seat, crash forces are felt in the neck and shoulders as they make contact with the harness.

Harnesses, seat belts, and LATCH belt webbing are designed to stretch for energy management. This stretching of the webbing—plus any removal of slack in the harness—and vehicle seat cushion compression causing downward rotation, is called “payout.” Payout happens before ride down, which is when the carseat and vehicle come to a stop. The more movement a child has during a crash, the more chance for injury, which is why child passenger safety technicians emphasize snug harnesses and installations. Eliminating the downward rotation by using a load leg means the child stays down in the seat and payout is reduced. This is a good thing because the less time that’s spent on payout, the more time that’s spent on ride down, which is when the carseat itself starts absorbing energy. The carseat stays more upright allowing the back of the carseat to absorb energy instead of the harness; the crash forces are distributed along the child’s back instead of concentrated on the neck and shoulders.

Another benefit from load legs, especially in smaller vehicles, is that by allowing the carseat to stay more upright in a crash, there’s less of a chance a child will ramp up and out of the carseat and strike the vehicle interior with their head. Head injuries lead the list of injuries to rear-facing children in vehicle crashes.

The video below compares a Cybex Aton 2 without its load leg to an Aton 2 with its load leg. You can see how a load leg affects downward rotation. Be sure to notice the position of the dummy’s head on each side of the video.

Another thing to point out with load legs involves FMVSS 213 and testing with load legs. The test sled for 213 doesn’t have a floor, so load legs can’t officially be included in federal testing. When manufacturers test their carseats with load legs, they add a floor piece onto the sled so the load leg has a place to rest. This is why load legs aren’t required to be used and bases with this accessory have a storage area for them to be tucked away.

What about Rebound?

2019 IIHS Booster Seat Ratings: Best Bet and Beyond

Facebooktwittergoogle_plusmailFacebooktwittergoogle_plusmail
Does your booster rate as a Good or Best Bet?

Every year, the Insurance Institute of Highway Safety (IIHS) releases their annual fit ratings of belt-positioning booster seats. Because proper seat belt fit on children is so important to their safety in a crash, having a booster seat that adjusts the seat belt easily for both parent and child is paramount. Fortunately, since the IIHS has released their ratings for years and given access to their testing protocol to manufacturers, we have many more excellent choices than ever before. This year IIHS evaluated 13 booster models as Best Bets.

Beginning last year, IIHS used a new dummy designed specifically for these tests called Jasper (Juvenile Anthropomorphic Seat-belt Position Evaluation Rig). IIHS worked with Humanetics, the dummy’s manufacturer to design Jasper, which represents a 45 pound 6 yr old.

What makes a “Best Bet” booster seat? The booster should correctly position the seat belt on a typical 4-8 year old child in most vehicles. A correctly positioned seat belt will fit low on the lap, touching the thighs, and cross the shoulders about half-way over the collarbone. The shoulder belt should move freely through the belt guide if you have a highback booster.

But remember, your vehicle may not be “most” vehicles and may have a different belt geometry. Always try before you buy, if you can, and hold onto the box and receipt in case you need to return the booster.

“Good Bet” means that the belt fit will be acceptable in most vehicles and these boosters shouldn’t be automatically shunned because they aren’t “top tier.”

“Check Fit” means just that: it may fit a larger child better than a smaller child in some vehicles or vice versa. I’ve used “Check Fit” boosters quite successfully before with my kids in my cars—it definitely doesn’t mean you should chuck the seat out with the bathwater.

What Does Good Belt Fit Look Like?

Most kids need boosters until ages 10-12, news that can be shocking to many first-time parents. Seat belts are designed to fit adult bodies and until children reach adult size, they need a restraint that helps the seat belt fit them or they are at risk of severe injury or death in a crash. The 5-Step Test was designed to help parents determine when their kids fit safely in a seat belt without needing a booster seat.

Sometimes it can be confusing and not at all clear as to whether the seat belt is sitting on the child correctly or not. When evaluating belt fit, it’s always best to dress the child in tight-fitting clothes that don’t bunch; the worst outfit to choose is jeans and a sweatshirt.

Highback boosters with headwings generally have the shoulder belt guides attached and adjust in height. Please check your instruction manual on how to raise the headwings to adjust the shoulder belt position on your child’s shoulder. It’s not comfortable for your child to have the headwings pressing down on your child’s shoulders, or even behind their shoulders like we frequently see because parents don’t know to lift the wings up.

New Best Bet Boosters Tested for 2019

This is not an all-inclusive list – many boosters were rated in previous years. You can search all the booster ratings, current and previous years, by manufacturer HERE.

Manufacturer and Model Can Use LATCH CarseatBlog Review CarseatBlog Recommended Seat
Britax Highpoint (highback) Yes Review Yes
Britax Midpoint (highback) Yes
Britax Skyline (highback) Yes Review
Chicco MyFit (highback) Yes
Diono 3R (highback) Yes
Diono 3RX (highback) Yes
Diono 3RXT (highback) Review
Evenflo EveryStage DLX (highback) Yes
Evenflo Maestro Sport (highback) Yes
Graco Nautilus SnugLock DLX (backless) Review Yes
Graco Recline N' Ride 3-in-1 (highback) Yes
Graco Turbo GO (backless)
Graco TurboBooster TakeAlong Review Yes

Check Fit Boosters
Manufacturer and Model Can Use LATCH CarseatBlog Review CarseatBlog Recommended Seat
Graco Nautilus SnugLock LX (backless) Review
Urbini Asenti All-in-One (highback)

Not Recommended Boosters

For the second time in as many years, there are no new boosters on the “Not Recommended” lists; however, that doesn’t mean there aren’t still Not Recommended boosters from past years still being used or for sale as leftover stock. One seat, the Safety 1st Summit 65, is still being manufactured. It is worth looking at the list to make sure a booster you’re using or considering isn’t on this list. These boosters demonstrate consistently poor belt fit.

What about the Incognito and Mifold?

The Safety 1st Incognito and Mifold are belt positioners, but not boosters; they don’t raise children up to position the seat belt on their bodies. As such, IIHS doesn’t rate them.

For the complete 2019 IIHS Status Report with listing of all previously ranked boosters, visit the IIHS website: http://www.iihs.org/iihs/ratings/child-boosters

Given the number of Best Bet boosters available, chances are high that your booster kid is using one. However, if you’re using a booster that doesn’t garner that coveted Best Bet label, remember to do a fit check yourself in every vehicle you use the booster in since seat belt geometry varies so much. If you have a booster on the Not Recommended list, we do suggest that you find a dedicated belt-positioning booster from the Best Bet list and it need not break the bank.

If you’d like more guidance on which booster to choose, we have our own list of Recommended Carseats with a section on booster seats.