News Archive

New California Car Seat Law Changes Minimum Forward Facing Age

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chicco-nextfit-zip-air-rf-There are a number of reasons why we love living in California and starting January 1st, there’s one more reason to add to the list. On the first day of 2017, California will join a small group of states that require children to remain rear facing until age 2 (with a few specific caveats).

Several existing laws remain in place, including:
1. All children under age 8 must be buckled into a car seat or booster seat in the back seat of the vehicle.
2. All children 8 years or older or 4’9″ or taller may use the vehicle seat belt if it fits them properly.

But the newest component replaces the previous 1 year and 20 pounds rear facing minimum requirement. California law states (Sections 27360 27360.5 27360.6 27363) :

“Effective January 1, 2017, children under 2 years of age shall ride in a rear-facing car seat unless the child weighs 40 or more pounds OR is 40 or more inches tall. The child shall be secured in a manner that complies with the height and weight limits specified by the manufacturer of the car seat.”

Violating these laws carries a fine that can exceed $500 for each improperly restrained child, as well as having points added to the driver’s license. In short, it’s not worth it, especially when you consider that ignoring this law puts your child at risk of death or significant injury.

SceneraNEXTEmmaRF sideThe law is written so that families of children who are very tall and/or heavy do not have to buy an expensive extended rear facing seat to make it to age 2. To clarify, the 40 pound/inch caveat should not be used to imply that rear facing is somehow less important for a 40 pound or 40 inch 18-month toddler, because it’s not. Science shows us that it is anatomical development (which comes with age), not the height or weight, that makes a young child less at risk for catastrophic neck injuries in a crash when forward facing.

We have known for a long time that rear facing is safer than forward facing for every person, and especially for infants up until at least age 2. It’s nice to see state legislatures like California’s catching up to the research and helping nudge parents to keep their children as safe as possible in the car.  Be sure to see our list of the best convertible carseats for extended rear-facing!

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UPPAbaby MESA “Henry” Infant Carseat – Green is the New Black

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We are so excited about this new product, which will be available Spring 2017! The UPPAbaby MESA is already one of our favorite premium infant carseats (it’s one of our Editors’ Picks from our Recommended Seats List). And, soon chemical-conscious parents in North America will have the option to buy a MESA model with a merino wool blend cover that is naturally flame retardant!

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This new model, called “Henry/ Blue Marl” (which is actually more grey than blue), will be the first chemical-free infant carseat trim cover! You’re going to shell out $50 more for that particular fashion, but if reducing your child’s exposure to certain chemicals is high on your list of priorities, we don’t think an extra $50 for a wool blend cover that is naturally flame retardant is unreasonable.

Aside from being the “Greenest” carseat, MESA is packed with safety and convenience features. The base is a breeze to install with lower LATCH connectors. Seatbelt install is easy too thanks to the lockoff on the base. This model fits preemies and small newborns well. And of course, it’s compatible with the wildly popular UPPAbaby VISTA & CRUZ strollers if you want to create an ultra-premium travel system. Check out our UPPAbaby MESA Review for the full scoop.

Why Merino Wool?

Merino wool is the only fiber that is naturally flame retardant. For this reason organic mattresses have been made with wool for years. Merino wool is also well-known for being a wicking fiber which makes it comfortable in both warm and cool weather. This is not the itchy wool sweaters of your youth – merino wool doesn’t feel like traditional wool and it won’t bother even the most sensitive baby skin. We all touched the Henry cover and agreed that it felt smooth and lovely.

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Why do most carseats have chemical flame retardants added?

Unfortunately, the fact is that an antiquated federal law requires manufacturers to meet strict flammability standards and it’s very difficult (although clearly not impossible) to meet those standards without adding chemical flame retardants. However, manufacturers do have a choice as to which chemicals they use and how they use them.

UPPAbaby deserves huge kudos for finding a way to meet the flammability standards without adding flame retardants to the cover! They also used energy-absorbing EPP foam (instead of EPS foam) because EPP doesn’t require additional flame retardants. As a side note, all current (non-Henry) MESA models meet the flammability standards without using brominated or chlorinated chemicals (e.g. PBB’s and PBDE’s), which are considered the worst offenders.

“Henry” will be arriving early Spring 2017. We will update the ETA as we get closer to the launch date and have more specific information.

MSRP for “Henry” fashion will be $349. 

So, what do we think?

We were so impressed, that we awarded UPPAbaby with one of our exclusive “Shut Up & Take My Money” Awards for Best New Product at the 2016 ABC Kids Expo! Congrats to UPPAbaby for being the first to market with a naturally flame retardant carseat cover! We hope to see many more of these in the future.

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2016 IIHS Booster Seat Ratings: Is Your Booster A Best Bet?

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The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety ranks boosters as a Best Bet, Good Bet, Check Fit, or Not Recommended

JennyJust a few years ago, the list of belt-positioning boosters that fit kids really well was on the short side. Now the vast majority of boosters fit children well in a variety of vehicles making it easier than ever before to keep the “forgotten children”—kids who are prematurely transitioned to seat belts before they’re big enough to fit well—comfortable and safe in boosters. This year, the IIHS evaluated 53 new booster seat models and 48 earned the highest rating of “Best Bet.”

What is a “Best Bet”? The booster should correctly position the seat belt on a typical 4-8 year old child in most vehicles. 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.

A “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.

Here’s an excellent example of a Best Bet booster, the Graco 4Ever in backless mode, that fits well in one vehicle but not in another. You can see that in the vehicle on the left, the shoulder belt fit is poor whereas in the vehicle on the right, the shoulder belt fit is excellent. The lap belt fit in both vehicles is excellent. We need to have excellent fit for both shoulder belt AND lap belt in order for the booster seat to be safe.

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What does good belt fit look like?

Diono Approves Convertible & Booster Installations with Ford’s Inflatable Seat Belt Technology

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Effective immediately all current models of Diono convertible seats (R100, R120, RadianRXT, Olympia, Pacifica & Rainier) and Diono boosters (Monterey, Cambria, & Solana) can now be used in Ford vehicles that have inflatable seatbelts! This allowance is retroactive to previous Diono and Sunshine Kids Radian and Monterey models.

Currently, inflatable seatbelts are an optional feature in the Ford Explorer, Edge, Flex, Fusion and F-150 as well as in Lincoln’s MKT, MKX and MKZ models. Read more about our experience with inflatable seatbelts in our Ford Explorer Review. This new allowance from Diono does NOT include the inflatable seatbelts found in some Mercedes-Benz vehicles.

Photo Credit: Diono

If you own a Ford or Lincoln vehicle with inflatable seatbelts, or if you are a CPS Technician working in a Ford/Lincoln vehicle that has this technology, please make sure you understand how to lock this particular type of seatbelt before attempting installation of ANY harnessed carseat.

ford-inflatable-seatbelt-upper-elr-retractorThe Ford inflatable seatbelt system uses 2 retractors which is very unusual. One retractor at the top of the shoulder belt, where you normally expect to find a retractor (pic right) and a second retractor (pic below) is near the floor at the end of the lap belt portion of the lap/shoulder belt. When installing ANY approved harnessed seat with these seatbelts you must switch the retractor on the lap belt portion of the seatbelt to locked (ALR) mode. The retractor at the top for the shoulder belt is not “switchable” – it is ELR only, meaning that section of the seatbelt will only lock during a crash or under emergency conditions. ELR retractors don’t do you any good when it comes to a harnessed carseat installation (boosters are a different story) so you MUST lock the lap belt portion of the seatbelt by “switching” the bottom retractor to locked mode. Switching a switchable retractor to locked mode is achieved by pulling the webbing of the seatbelt all the way to the end. When the webbing starts to retracts, you will hear a ratcheting sound and you will notice that the belt webbing goes in but won’t come out in this locked mode. Read the vehicle’s owners manual for clarification and more specific details.

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If using an inflatable seatbelt to secure a child in a Diono Booster seat, you don’t have to worry about any of this. Just route the seatbelt properly and buckle.

Additional information regarding Diono seats and Ford’s inflatable seat belts can be found on the Diono website:  https://us.diono.com/update-on-ford-inflatable-seat-belt-use-with-diono-products