Resources Archive

Will Skinny be back in 2018? A plea for more narrow carseats & boosters.

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Discontinued width-adjustable Britax StarRiser/Comfy

Skinny is in high demand – that is, if you’re a carseat or booster. Unfortunately, skinny is also very hard to come by these days and that’s a real problem. In a time when many Americans are downsizing their vehicles –  increased laws and awareness are keeping more kids in carseats and boosters longer. The combination of these two factors is creating a real space problem.

We need more seats that can fit in narrow seating positions and in those tricky 3-across situations. Manufacturers really need to work to address this issue because if I see one more Turbobooster without armrests because they’re trying to make it fit next to another carseat – I’m going to lose my mind!

Suggestions for CR Manufacturers:

Work on designing new, narrow seats, or perhaps booster seats that are width-adjustable and pay particular attention to how your various models fit/puzzle/mesh next to each other.  

Current Options:

For those parents and caregivers who can’t wait for future seats – the Cosco Scenera NEXT is a neat little convertible that is going to work in a lot of tight situations. But it’s very compact and really meant for infants and small toddlers.

The Evenflo Tribute convertible can be a saving grace in many 3-across scenarios too but again, it’s not that big and many kids will outgrow it by height before hitting 40 lbs.

The Safety 1st Guide 65 convertible is narrow and will last longer before being outgrown but some parents wind up dismayed when their child falls asleep and has “head slump” – an issue caused by the tilted headrest.

The Diono Radian models have built their reputation on being narrow and working well in a lot of 3-across scenarios but they have their quirks and incompatibility issues in some cases. Whenever possible, you should “try before you buy”.

I’ve seen the Harmony Defender forward-facing combination seat recommended for people looking for a slim seat but not everyone wants a carseat that has to be assembled like IKEA furniture.

The Graco Tranzitions (aka Graco Wayz) is often recommended for families on a budget who need a slim forward-facing seat but it’s really not that narrow (although it does have a low profile) and it can be incompatible with some seatbelt installations once the child is over the LATCH weight limit.

The brand new Chicco MyFit forward-facing combination seat is being released this month and seems very promising since it’s only 17.5″ wide! We are currently evaluating its abilities and will have a full review posted soon.

The forward-facing only IMMI GO is a narrow option that some parents may want to consider but it’s not a traditional carseat and it lacks solid, side structure and head support. Plus, you really need to install it in a seating position with a full set of LATCH anchors (lower anchors & tether). It requires tethering, installs quickly and easily with lower anchors but is generally incompatible with most seatbelt installations.

Another non-traditional product for kids 3+ who weigh at least 30 lbs. is the Ride Safer Travel Vest. The vest is available in 2 sizes; small (30-60 lbs.) or large (50-80 lbs.). There is an optional tether strap that can be used with either size vest and there is also a narrow backless booster (Delighter) that can be purchased for use with the vest.

Last but not least, the Britax ClickTight Convertibles, the Clek Foonf Clek Fllo are all narrow convertibles but they’re pricey and out of reach for many families on a budget.

In the last two decades, the industry has been very focused on bigger and wider. No doubt this is due to the fact that American kids are getting bigger and wider, not to mention they’re staying in carseats and boosters for much longer than in the past. Plus, there has been a strong, steady demand for higher-weight carseats and boosters that can accommodate bigger/older children. This is all well and good but you can’t focus exclusively on bigger and wider because if the bigger seats don’t fit in smaller vehicles, then what?

What do you think happens when a family of 5 trades in their Tahoe for a Prius? And what happens at a check event when a car pulls in with 3 kids in the back of an old Corolla and all 3 need to be in seats? My CPS program stocks Evenflo Tributesinstitutional models of the Maestro and Harmony Youth Boosters but sometimes it’s not enough and parents are forced to make those “tough choices”. Do you put a kid up front? Let the oldest ride without a booster in back even though he clearly still needs one? This is reality. This is what we’re dealing with at events all across the nation because of space issues.

Manufacturers, you can help those of us in the trenches (and those who are personally in these predicaments) by meeting these challenges and making more 3-across-and-small-vehicle-friendly seats. We also desperately need more affordable options for our CPS programs that work in these tight situations! I know we can’t fix or solve every incompatibility that we encounter but this particular problem seems to have some possible solutions that are realistic and within reach. I hope you’ll agree.

Proper Harness Use Graphics

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Looking for pictures of correct harness use? Look no further. We’ve got what you need here for a rear-facing only infant seat, convertible seat, forward-facing seat, and booster seat.

 

Top 5 Tips for Sharing Carseat Tips with Friends

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Imagine how you deal with the awkward situation of having to tell someone you’re talking with that they have food stuck in their teeth.

Maybe you can’t imagine this because you’ve made the decision to never, ever, tell anyone about the spinach bits wedged between their incisors. Or maybe you are someone who doesn’t even squirm at the thought of broaching the subject because you have decided in advance to always, always, bring attention to the issue; swiftly and smoothly:

“Oh look, you have something from your breakfast smoothie stuck in your teeth!”

“Oh.” Wipes teeth with tongue.  “Did I get it?”

“No, not that side, the other side”

“Here?”

“Yep, oh… still there.  Here try some water.”

“Still?”

“Okay, you may just want to run to the bathroom to check it out in the mirror…”

I weigh the pros and cons of both approaches and still can’t decide which is better. If I don’t say anything, and we chat for an hour, then someone more brazen than I joins the conversation and tells them, then they’ll ask me, “Oh, why didn’t you tell me? I feel stupid you let me carry on like that!” Or, I could quickly point it out the second I notice it, participate in the whole teeth-washing fiasco, just to discover it’s ruined our pleasant visit.  

You can imagine how my indecisiveness about manners manifests itself similarly when, as a certified Child Passenger Safety Technician, I see carseat misuse by close friends. In the scenario of deciding if I’ll tell my friend that an infant seat base is not supposed to slide off the vehicle seat on every curve, the stakes are a bit higher.

On the one hand, commenting on how a mom chooses, uses, and installs her child’s carseat, risks leaving her feeling ashamed and defensive. But on the other hand, I could ignore the safety issues and feel responsible if, in a collision, the seat doesn’t provide the highest level of protection. Which, gathering from the fact that she spent $200 on a carseat and uses it regularly, she does intend to glean the most safety benefits possible from it! 

She may actually want to know sooner rather than later if something is stuck in her teeth.

My strategy is still a work in progress but, here’s how I am choosing to share my carseat safety knowledge with friends:

  1. Assume parents are doing their very best.
  2. Express admiration for the things they are doing right.
  3. Show solutions to the most pressing safety concerns.
  4. Empathize with the ridiculousness of how complicated it is to keep a child safe on the road.
  5. Offer to help them anytime they have questions or want guidance on a new seat.

So far nothing has blown up in my face; I still have friends. Usually, if I lose friends it’s because they move out of state and if that’s their way of breaking up with me because I offended them with unwanted carseat advice, then they have a very good cover story. And a very accommodating spouse.

Head Injuries in Rear-Facing Carseats

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You’ve heard Rear-Facing (RF) is safest. Maybe you’ve heard that RF car seats provide the best head protection. That’s probably true, in general. Maybe someone told you RF is “5x safer”. That statistic is based on only one study that used limited data and covers very specific circumstances, so it may or may not apply to your situation. What’s important is that rear-facing is very safe when the child is within the limits allowed by the carseat. In fact, simply using any age-appropriate carseat according to both instructions and state laws will be very effective at reducing the risk of severe injuries and fatalities.

Very safe in an upright convertible carseat!

So, what’s the deal? It turns out, that while rare, moderate and serious head injuries can happen in rear-facing carseats. There are typically 3 possible causes.

  1.  The top of a baby’s head might move out of the protection of the carseat shell and strike a front vehicle seat, pillar or console. This may be more of a concern with rear-facing only infant carriers, especially when fully reclined with a baby near the height limit.
  2.  The carseat shell strikes part of the vehicle interior, possibly resulting in the back or side of baby’s head hitting the inside of the carseat with enough force to cause a contusion or other injury.
  3.  In unusually energetic frontal crashes, the carseat could rebound with enough energy that the front of baby’s head may strike part of the vehicle interior.

Don’t Panic! High speed and very energetic crashes are not common, but can result in serious injuries, especially when misuse or non-use of restraints are involved. The good news is that if you are using a carseat and have installed and adjusted it as best as you can, you probably have very little to worry about.

So what can you do to reduce the chance of injury? The same simple things we’ve always told you and that you’ve probably done:

  • Install and use your carseat in the back seat, according to manufacturer instructions AND state law
  • Drive unimpaired and undistracted

How can you further reduce the chance of head injury in rear-facing carseats?

  1. In particular, make sure your carseat installation and harness are tight.
  2. If your child is approaching the stated rear-facing height limit, or when the top of the head is 1″ from the top of the carseat shell, then a taller seat may be necessary.
  3. For older babies and toddlers who have good head and neck control, install your carseat as upright as allowed by the instructions.
  4. If your carseat offers a load leg or anti-rebound feature, use it.
  5. Choose a Recommended Carseat that has a layer of energy-absorbing foam both behind and on the side of baby’s head.  Deep side wings and load legs (on certain infant seat bases) can also be advantageous.
  6. When shopping for a newer vehicle, select one with good safety ratings made in 2011 or later, when side-impact airbags and stability control are usually standard features.

“Bracing”, or having the rear-facing carseat touching the front vehicle seat, is a very complex topic.  Some vehicles don’t allow this at all, due to passenger airbag sensors.  In other vehicles, there are various conflicting factors to consider.  If allowed by both the vehicle and carseat owners manuals, bracing could potentially reduce the risk of the carseat energetically striking the vehicle seat back and related head injury (point B above).  On the other hand, it could increase the risk of direct head contact for an older, taller baby ramping out of the infant seat and striking a part of the vehicle interior (point A above). This is especially a concern with rear-facing only infant carseats that have shorter shells, tend to sit lower in the vehicle and tend to be installed with more recline than a rear-facing convertible carseat.

Above all, try not to lose sleep over this!  Loose installations, loose harnesses, too much recline and exceeding the rear-facing height limits are always a potential concern, so just make sure you read the instructions and consult a child passenger safety technician if you have any questions about your installation and usage of child restraints.