Safety Archive

Having A Baby? Here Are the Carseat Basics You Need to Know

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Carseat 101

pg hwYou’ve peed on the stick and found out you’re pregnant. Yay! (Or not. Who am I to say?) You’ve gone to Target, Buy Buy Baby, and Amazon.com and registered for every single baby item under the sun that’s plastic and can be sanitized and trust me, it all coordinates, right? Now you’ve come down to the final weeks and it’s panic time when you realize this baby is coming out one way or another and you have to get it home. You just stick Baby in the carseat and go, right? No. Nope. No way, new parent. You are now attending Carseat 101 and there will be a quiz at the end. I have no doubt you will pass with flying colors!

First, let’s go over some vocab you’ll need for the next, oh, decade or so. Yeah, baby, your precious is going to be in a seat for a loonngg time. In chronological order, please:

Rear-facing only infant seat:

This carseat is used for newborns to sometimes toddlerhood. It’s easily identified by its handle, canopy, and left-in-the-car base. The carrier portion fits onto the base.

photo  

Convertible seat:

This carseat can be used for newborns, but is often used after a child outgrows a rear-facing only seat. It rear-faces, then converts to forward-facing for older kids.

GracoSize4Me70newborn2  

Combination (harness-to-booster) seat:

This carseat is for older kids, the kind who order combo meals at fast food restaurants (and yes, you too, will succumb to buying your child a grease-loaded meal item at some point). A combo seat FORWARD-FACES ONLY. It has a harness to keep wiggly kids safe, then the harness comes off (many store on the seat itself now) and it can be a belt-positioning booster. See why it’s for older kids only? It combines a harness and a booster into one seat. You don’t always need a combo seat. Sometimes your child can go straight from a convertible seat to a belt-positioning booster, depending on which convertible she uses and how old and big she is.

Photo Oct 02, 2 20 32 PM  

Belt-positioning booster seat:

This carseat is for kids who nearly have gray hair. Just kidding. Barely. The purpose of a booster seat is to boost a kid up higher so that the vehicle’s lap and shoulder belt will fit them superbly over their bones, not their soft bellies. Kids have to have a certain amount of maturity in order to sit still in a vehicle seat belt and that comes around ages 4-6, depending on the child. Most parents find their kids transitioning out of a harness around ages 5-6, when “real” school starts, not that “pre-“ stuff. There are highback and backless varieties of boosters. Highbacks are great for the younger crowd because they provide head and torso support for sleeping. Backless boosters are harder to see from outside the car, so older, image-conscious kids like them better. Kids use booster seats until they can 5-step—fit in the belt like an adult—which is when they get to be the size of a small adult, around age 10-11.

lap and shoulder belt fit  

Let’s identify that you’ve gotten the right carseat for you. It used to be that an infant seat was an infant seat was an infant seat. Basically, all the carriers did more or less the same thing—it was the bases that distinguished them. Now we have carriers that fit small babies very well, some that don’t, some that have no-rethread harnesses, some that have canopies that disappear, and some still hanging around that fit kids up to 40 lbs. There’s quite a variety from which to choose and that can cause more confusion than ever! What’s my very first piece of advice to you in this area? Don’t insist on a travel system. Pick the very best rear-facing only seat that will work for you, then pick the very best stroller you can afford and put them together. Many strollers come with adapters and with a little bit of research on their website, you can find if the infant seat you want will fit on the stroller you want. The patterns may not match perfectly, but you will get a much better stroller this way usually unless you buy a high-end infant seat/stroller combo to begin with. I speak from experience: you don’t want to be stuck with a stroller you hate for years because you wanted to be all matchy-matchy with an infant seat you use for months. To help you in your search, we have both thorough, professional reviews and a list of our favorite seats.

Most of the time you will know if you’re going to have a small, average, or large baby by the end of your 40 weeks. If you and your partner are small folks and come from small families, genetics won’t let you down. Look for a rear-facing only seat that starts with a low birth weight of 4 lbs. It’s the same if you’re having a difficult pregnancy or if you’re having multiples. Fortunately, there are lots of rear-facing only seats that now have a minimum weight limit of 4 lbs., but they don’t always fit the preemie-sized babies well. We have a list of our favorite seats that fit preemies and multiples. If you’re having an average- or large-sized baby, any infant seat will do, though you’ll get more bang for your buck with a larger one. The size of your vehicle also has to be factored in since the larger the infant seat, the more space it takes up in the vehicle.

Now for some answers to common questions:

2019 IIHS Booster Seat Ratings: Best Bet and Beyond

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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.

 

 

Is It Safe to Check Your Carseat When You Fly?

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The issue of how to best handle flying with kids and their carseats is something that comes up often. Many safety-conscious parents will bring the carseat with them knowing that their child will need to use it once they reach their destination. I applaud all those parents for doing the right thing! However, for a variety of reasons, most parents don’t actually bring the carseat onto the plane and use it for their child during the flight. I suspect that many of those checked seats that I see on the baggage carousel belong to children under the age of 2, who wound up as lap babies on the flight. For the record, here at CarseatBlog, we have always recommended that you buy a ticket for your child (regardless of their age), bring their carseat and use it on the plane.

Newborn on airplane – safe and comfortable!

Regardless of why parents chose to check their carseats, the fact remains that most travelers flying with carseats in tow do check them instead of lugging them through security and using them on the plane. And seats checked with regular luggage probably get tossed around and manhandled the same way luggage does. I somehow doubt that the baggage guys suddenly look at the carseat and decide to handle it with care so they don’t crack the EPS foam, know what I mean?

But what if you’ve already traveled with your carseat and checked it? Perhaps even multiple times? Is it still safe to use? There are some CPS advocates that will argue that a checked carseat could have sustained significant damage during the time it was out of your sight and should be replaced as a precaution. Some might actually go so far as to suggest that the checked carseat is now “as good as crashed”. I personally think that stance is over the top but I understand the logic behind those opinions. I’ve seen how beat-up my luggage is sometimes when I reach my destination. Plus, many frequent flyers have witnessed first-hand some of the abuse that luggage endures as it’s loaded and unloaded from the aircraft.

GM Recalls Certain Chevy, GMC & Cadillac Models Due to Faulty Seatbelt Retractors

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General Motors is recalling several 2018 and 2019 GMC, Chevrolet, and Cadillac vehicles due to seatbelt assemblies that might not switch to locking mode when used to install child restraints.

Normally with these vehicles, caregivers would lock the seatbelt by pulling the webbing all the way out when installing child restraints. In the affected vehicles, seatbelt assemblies for the second and third row may fail to lock when the webbing is pulled all the way out. This can leave the seatbelt and child restraint loose, and could prevent the child restraint from working properly in a crash, increasing the possibility of injury.

What vehicles are affected?

This recall includes 15,800 vehicles from the following models:

  • 2018 Chevrolet Suburban
  • 2019 Chevrolet Suburban
  • 2018 Chevrolet Volt
  • 2019 Chevrolet Volt
  • 2018 GMC Yukon XL
  • 2019 GMC Yukon XL
  • 2018 Cadillac CT6
  • 2019 Cadillac CT6
  • 2018 Cadillac Escalade ESV
  • 2019 Cadillac Escalade ESV
What’s the fix?

GM will notify owners. Dealers will inspect the rear-seat retractors and will replace the assemblies if necessary.

What do I do in the meantime?

GM’s official position is “await notification,” but people can take steps in the meantime. If you own one of these vehicles and have a child restraint installed with the seatbelt, check to make sure the seatbelt is locked. (Once you have installed the child restraint, pull the seatbelt webbing all the way out, then feed the excess back into the retractor. If the belt is locked, you shouldn’t be able to pull the webbing out again.) If the belt locks, there is nothing to worry about at this time. If the belt does not lock, you have some options:

  • Try a different seating position in the vehicle
  • Install the seat with lower anchors (LATCH) if your child is within the LATCH weight limit and the seating position is equipped with lower anchors
  • Use a child restraint with a built-in lock-off
  • Use a locking clip

It is important to note that this problem does not affect the emergency locking function of the seatbelt. That means the belt will still lock as usual in a crash or hard stop when it is restraining an adult, an older child not using a child restraint, or a child using a booster seat where the seatbelt goes over the child’s body.

More information:

You can click here for the official GM statement, and you can contact the following numbers for more support:

  • Chevrolet Customer Service: 1-800-222-1020
  • GMC Customer Service: 1-800-462-8782
  • Cadillac Customer Service: 1-800-458-8006
  • GM Recall Number: 18315
  • NHTSA Toll Free: 1-888-327-4236
  • NHTSA (TTY): 1-800-424-9153
Official NHTSA statement:

NHTSA Campaign Number: 18V673000

Manufacturer General Motors LLC

Components SEAT BELTS

Potential Number of Units Affected 15,800

Summary

General Motors LLC (GM) is recalling certain 2018-2019 Cadillac CT6, Escalade ESV, Chevrolet Suburban, Volt, and GMC Yukon XL vehicles. Certain second-row or third-row rear seatbelts retractor assemblies may not automatically lock when the seatbelt is fully pulled out of the retractor, possibly preventing a child seat from being properly secured. As such, these vehicles fail to comply with the requirements of Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard (FMVSS) number 208, “Occupant Crash Protection.”

Remedy

GM will notify owners, and dealers will inspect the rear seatbelt retractors and replace them if necessary, free of charge. The manufacturer has not yet provided a notification schedule. Owners may contact Cadillac customer service at 1-800-458-8006, Chevrolet customer service at 1-800-222-1020 or GMC customer service at 1-800-462-8782. GM’s number for this recall is 18315.

Notes

Owners may also contact the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration Vehicle Safety Hotline at 1-888-327-4236 (TTY 1-800-424-9153), or go to www.safercar.gov.