Automobile Safety Archive

Letting Your Teen Drive Your Newer Car: Difficult or Easy Choice?

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National Teen Driver Safety Week 2019

October 20-26 is National Teen Driver Safety Week.  Keeping kids safe in cars has been our focus at CarseatBlog for over a decade now.  That doesn’t stop when they move out of a booster into a seatbelt!  Did you know that the risk to older teens is much greater than the risk to younger children in motor vehicles?  In fact, driving and riding with other teen drivers is simply the most dangerous routine activity that many teens will ever do in their life.   Unlike kids in some younger age groups, car crashes are still the #1 killer of teen drivers.  There were almost 2000 deaths and over 230,000 injuries to teens age 16-19 in car crashes in 2017 in the USA.  By comparison, there were 270 deaths and roughly 41,000 injuries to children age 5-8 in the same period according to CDC Data.

For young children, child passenger safety advocates have a guideline that we prefer to put the least protected occupant in the most protected seating position if possible.  For example, a child in a rear-facing carseat generally is very well protected from side impacts, so they could be placed in an outboard seating position, while an older child in a backless booster might ride in the center seat if appropriate.  Is the same principle even more important for teen drivers, given the much higher number of injuries and fatalities?

Of course, teen drivers are always in the driver seat, but what vehicle are they driving?  Are they in mom’s newer SUV with the top safety ratings and crash avoidance features?  Maybe they don’t get to drive the newest car in the family, so they use dad’s sedan from five or ten years ago that still has good safety ratings.  Or, are they in a used compact car from 15-20 years ago that may have been in a crash with frame damage?  Is putting the least safe driver in the safest vehicle available to them a mantra we should be teaching?

 

 

Yes, it’s tough to let your 18 year-old drive that shiny newer car, knowing that it’s more likely to get some dents and scratches.  It’s even tougher to let your new teen driver take the wheel of the newest car in the household, with a much greater risk of it being wrecked in a crash.  The problem is that inexperienced teen drivers also have a far greater risk of being severely injured.  Those advanced crash avoidance features may be what can keep them out of a crash.  If they do crash because of inexperience or distractions, those top safety ratings may be exactly what they need to avoid serious injury.  We have a list of safe and more affordable used and new cars for teen drivers.

If you are worried about your children in carseats being injured in a car crash, consider this table below.  In 2017, about 1,200 children age 0-14 died in motor vehicle crashes.  With any contagious disease, that would be considered an epidemic with immediate public outcry and government action.  Nearly 6,700 young adults age 15-24 died in crashes the same year.  For any cause of death, this is nothing short of a crisis.  According to the CDC, “Per mile driven, teen drivers ages 16 to 19 are nearly three times more likely than drivers aged 20 and older to be in a fatal crash.

You did your best keeping your young kids in carseats and safe in crashes.  It’s so much more important to do the same once they start driving and riding with other teens!  Please, consider the risks before making your teen drive the least safe vehicle available to them in the family.

More fon Teen Driving rom NHTSA

Haulin’ The Family: Ford F150 SuperCrew Review

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2019 Ford F-150 Review: Kids, Carseats & Safety

When I was asked if I’d like to review the best-selling vehicle in the country, I said sure, figuring it would be something like an Accord or a RAV4. It turns out the best-selling vehicle in America is the Ford F150, which took me by surprise. I’m always up for driving a fully-loaded, brand-new vehicle for a week, though, so I was game to test out a 2019 Ford F150 SuperCrew Limited.

While it’s true that a lot of pickup trucks are probably bought more for work purposes than for family-hauling, pickups can be great options for people who need to do both, or for parents who just like the versatility of having a huge cargo area plus room to seat their kids.

This review will focus primarily on features that are important to the average parent, like safety, comfort, and, of course, car seats. Here’s a general video overview, and we’ll go into more detail down below:

Safety Features

As a Child Passenger Safety Technician, safety is my top priority when it comes to vehicles. A pickup truck’s large size will give it an advantage on the road, but that’s just part of it. Vehicle manufacturers are adding more and more safety features to satisfy customers and to improve their ratings in government and IIHS testing, and Ford has lots of safety options available for the F150.

The F150 Limited I drove came with all the safety features: blind-spot detection, lane-keep assist, automatic braking, adaptive cruise control, backup camera with 360-degree view, cross-traffic warning and more. As you go lower in trim levels, you’ll lose some of those features, but even the base model includes automatic emergency braking.

The F150 also comes with a full array of airbags, including the option of inflatable airbags in the rear outboard seatbelts. I’ll go into more detail on those in the carseat section.

I’ll admit I’m kind of nervous about driving large vehicles (especially at first), so features like blind-spot detection help give me peace of mind that I won’t run over a Smart Car. I’m also notoriously bad at parking, and the larger the vehicle, the worse I do. That’s why I loved the birdseye-view camera to help me not be so crooked in parking spaces.

The Limited also has a feature that will essentially parallel-park the truck for you. I didn’t have an opportunity to try it out, but it seems like a great option for those of us who are parking-challenged.

Driving and Comfort

Oh, my, the comfort…Where to begin?

Let me start by telling you that the F150 Limited has massaging seats. You can stop reading now and just go buy one if you’d like.

The seats are also heated and air-conditioned, so if you ever need a little “me time,” you can just go hang out in your truck.

If you’re still cold even with the heated seats, take advantage of the heated steering wheel as well. If you have backseat passengers who aren’t in car seats, they will also appreciate the heated second-row seats.

The center console is absolutely enormous. You could—but shouldn’t—store a small child in there. BubbleBum for scale:

A panoramic sunroof brightens up the whole car, as do tons of cool blue lights at night. (Even the cupholders glow.) LED lights also illuminate the truck bed at night, making it easy to find stuff in the dark.

Automatic retractable (and lit) running boards make it easy for kids and shorter adults to get in and out of the truck without hurting themselves or making fools of themselves.

The Limited has the option of serving as its own WiFi hot spot, which can come in very handy on long trips with kids. The truck is compatible with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto for smooth integration.

If you don’t need to have anyone riding in the middle of the back seat, an armrest/cupholder console folds down for convenience and comfort.

Did I mention it has massaging seats?

I’m not an expert on truck beds and sizes and whatnot, so I won’t try to get technical about it. I do know that on the occasions we need to haul stuff, getting it into the bed of an F150 would be a lot easier than shoving it into the back of our Odyssey, as we do now. I didn’t need to haul anything other than groceries during my test-drive period, so I didn’t really put that feature to use, although I think my husband was itching to throw some lumber back there.

Jennie, enjoying a massage

I’m not going to say that driving the F150 felt like driving a car, because it didn’t, and that’s okay. The ride was kind of bumpy, but that’s to be expected with an unladen pickup bed. (Get the massaging chair going, and you can’t really tell the difference between bumps in the road and the lumbar roller anyway.) To be honest, after the first few minutes of driving, I didn’t even notice the bumpiness anymore. The truck handled very nicely, and driving it wound up being pretty fun, even if it did take some getting used to.

The F150 Limited does have a fuel-saving option that idles the engine once you’ve been stopped for a while. Although it saves energy, I personally don’t like the associated lag that happens once I start accelerating. The option is easy enough to turn off when you don’t want it, though.

Carseats

In many ways the F150 is a dream for carseats, but there are a few important details to keep in mind.

2020 Honda Insight Review: Kids, Carseats & Safety

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The Honda Insight: King of Small Car Safety and Hybrid Fuel Economy too?

Quite simply, the 2019-20 Honda Insight is an amazing value for safety.  Starting at a street price of around $22K ($23,725 MSRP in LX trim), Consumer Reports said that the all-new Insight is their fuel-economy champ for vehicles that don’t have a plug.  We find it equally impressive that the Insight earns a Top Safety Pick “Plus” award from the IIHS AND a 5-star overall rating from the NHTSA.  More impressive is that it gets the top results of Good/Superior in ALL nine IIHS crash test and safety ratings and a 5-star result in ALL eight NHTSA safety evaluations as well.  That accomplishment is matched by only a handful of vehicles at any price.  Most impressive is that ALL these top ratings apply to ALL Insights in ALL trim levels.  That’s a rarity among vehicles, I believe the only one for 2019 at the time of this publication* including luxury models!  That’s mainly because many other models with top crash test results only earn an IIHS award on top trim levels that have the best headlight system and/or a tech options package with automatic emergency braking.

For kids, the Insight is still a small vehicle and like all compact SUVs and sedans, it’s relatively narrow and that compromises what you can put in the narrow middle seat.  While the outboard rear seats are fairly friendly to car seats in general, there will be challenges if you need to put two carseats next to each other or three-across.  The only unusual issue is the presence of fixed rear head restraints.  These protrude forward enough that they could be problematic for some taller forward-facing carseats and high back boosters, so you do need to check your carseat owner’s manual if the head restraint pushes your carseat forward or prevents the carseat from being adjusted high enough.  Some models I installed like the Graco Nautilus SnugLock and Britax Frontier did not have this issue.  The Frontier, however, can be difficult to adjust to the tallest height setting due to the roof.  Also, with the raised seat hump and slightly lower head restraint, taller passengers may not get adequate protection from whiplash in the center seat.  Headroom is already limited, so taller people may not be comfortable in the middle anyway.  On the other hand, Insight has a few inches more rear legroom than its competitors, handy not only for adults but also for rear-facing carseats.

Graco Nautilus SnugLock LX

2019 Toyota RAV4 Review: Kids, Carseats & Safety

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2019 Toyota RAV4 Hybrid Gets Rugged Looks with More Green Cred

The 2019 Toyota RAV4 is an all-new update to the very popular outgoing model that was the #4 best-selling vehicle in the USA, behind the full-size Chevy, Ford and Dodge pickup trucks.  Gone is the cute, stylish exterior that is so common in the compact utility market.  Thankfully, rather than go with the “gaping maw” design of other Toyota and Lexus vehicles, the RAV4 instead has a take on the off-road capable 4WD 4Runner.  Though the emphasis with the RAV4 Hybrid is fuel economy rather than off-road prowess, it still looks more rugged than before, especially in the exclusive XSE trim with blue accents along with a black roof, trim and wheels.

In terms of crash avoidance, the RAV4 has all the essentials standard.  Toyota has been the leader including systems like automatic emergency braking on even the lowest trim levels of almost every model.  Some other brands still only include these features on top trim levels and then make you buy a pricey technology package on top of that, making them expensive if you can even find them on dealer’s lots.  Blind Spot Warning and Rear Cross Traffic Alert are optional on the base LE trim, but standard on other trims.  Have a problem on the road?  Toyota’s Entune 3.0 includes a 3-year subscription to Safety Connect on all trims, allowing for calls for emergencies, roadside assistance and automatic crash notification in case of airbag deployment.

As for crashworthiness, the RAV4 AWD did quite well.  It aced every crash test from the IIHS, with “Good” overall and Good sub-category results in each one, including the newer passenger-side small overlap crash test.  Its forward collision warning and autobrake system earned the top “Superior” rating.  The only blemish is a “Marginal” headlight rating, mainly due to inadequate illumination in gradual curves.  Unfortunately, this kept it from receiving a “Top Safety Pick” award, which is a shame given its excellent performance in all the actual crash tests and front crash avoidance system evaluation.  RAV4 Hybrid received a 5-star overall rating in the NHTSA safety evaluation.  The 4-star frontal crash test driver-side rating was the only blemish there.

In terms of carseats, the second row is a big improvement from the previous RAV4.  There is now minimal “crossover” of seatbelts that often prevented the middle and outboard seats from being used simultaneously for adjacent or “3-across” car seats.  The middle seat is still relatively narrow, but just wide enough to fit a narrow car seat like a Britax Emblem, Clek Fllo, BubbleBum or Harmony Youth Booster.  The seatbelt anchor for the center seat is just behind the buckle stalk of the passenger side seat, so it is technically possible to install adjacent seats if you can find two that will fit properly next to each other.

Passenger Side Seatbelt Arrangement

Getting three carseats in the back will be possible, but also challenging compared to a midsize or larger vehicle.  The LATCH anchors are readily accessible, and Toyota does allow “borrowing” in this vehicle of the innermost anchors from the outboard seats to install a child safety seat in the narrow middle seat, but only if permitted by the child seat manufacturer.  Rigid LATCH carseats are not allowed to use LATCH in the middle seat in this manner. In the RAV4, seatbelt installation is still preferred for the center seat, however, because using the LATCH anchors for the middle seat may conflict with having a car seat or passenger on either side.

2019 RAV4 Seatbelt Layout

The seatbelt buckle stalks are relatively short/flexible, and the head restraints are all removable in all three rear seats, so there are no major obstacles to good carseat installation in most situations. The seat cushion bolsters and center seat “bump” are not so pronounced to cause issues for most carseats.  Toyota does require that the vehicle seat backs for both sides must be reclined to the same setting when installing a car seat in the middle seat.  The only real challenge will be finding carseats that fit the narrow middle seating position to allow for installation of adjacent or three-across carseats.  For example, a narrow booster can be used in the center, like a BubbleBum shown below between a Graco Nautilus SnugLock and Britax Emblem.  While it fits, the narrow middle seat may make it difficult for a younger booster rider to buckle themselves.

2019 Toyota RAV4 3-Across Carseats