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Manufacturers—It’s Time for You to Step Up

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Emma in NautilusIn 2011, the American Academy of Pediatrics changed their rear-facing recommendations to age 2 or until the highest rear-facing weight or height limit of the child restraint has been reached. Shortly after, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration also changed their policy to show that rear-facing is safest for kids up to the limits of their rear-facing carseats. While the two policies aren’t quite in line with each other as far as limits go, what’s clear is that at the very least, kids should stay rear-facing to age 2.

It’s been 6 years now since those recommendations changed and I’d say most parents have heard of them. Some want to stick their heads in the sand and pretend like they didn’t hear them because they want their kids to see them eat their mom snacks or because they think their kids’ legs are twisted up and uncomfortable, and for others, it’s truly a new discovery. We have 4 states—New Jersey, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, California—where it’s the law that children must stay rear-facing until at least age 2, and 5 other states where bills have been proposed in state legislatures to make it formal. This is real.

So, manufacturers, what’s the problem?

Caregivers are getting conflicting messages and it’s confusing the bejeezits out of them. I know—how could this possibly be confusing when we have a 6 year old recommendation and even laws coming out to enforce the safety aspect of rear-facing? It seems clear-cut.

First, I want to say manufacturers have been giving us great seats lately. Really awesome seats! I can’t think of a better time in the last 17 years that I’ve been in carseats that I’ve seen such a great selection and if I had a kid in a carseat, I’d probably be switching them out on a daily basis. The manuals have improved so much too! Sections have been reorganized, color-coded, and written at a lower grade level so you don’t need to have a graduate level college degree to understand it.

Let’s get into the confusion by talking about these awesome infant seats on the market (technically we’re supposed to call them rear-facing only seats). They go to 35 lbs. or 40 lbs. and can hold kids who are no longer infants (see why we’re supposed to call them rear-facing only seats?). A mom who has a 30 lbs. 32” 19 mo old may think that her son is big enough to go straight into a Graco Nautilus because the box on the forward-facing only Nautilus says it fits children in a harness from 20-65 lbs. (and, after all, it’s “the last car seat you’ll ever buy”). There’s no mention on the side of the box, or in the manual, that the Nautilus is not an appropriate carseat for a child under age 2. Besides, after a caregiver has gotten a carseat home and unboxed is not the time to read in the manual that the carseat is not an appropriate model for their child.

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Graco isn’t the only manufacturer. Dorel (Safety 1st, Cosco, Maxi-Cosi, Eddie Bauer), doesn’t put age recommendations on their packaging and in fact, rescinded their stance on rear-facing to age 2 that they had on several convertible models (it’s complicated). Evenflo is in the process of converting their line to an age 2 minimum for forward-facing, but that takes time to trickle down; they say it should be completed by this summer. Britax is the only manufacturer currently with text on the side of their combination seat (harness seat that converts to booster) boxes that says the seat has an age 2 minimum.

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I’m not asking for much. A simple “Recommended for ages 2+” on the side of the box next to the weight limits on every combination seat would cover it. It doesn’t change the company’s overall philosophy or policy and would let caregivers clearly know the seat isn’t appropriate. Similarly, convertible seat packaging could have wording on the side next to the weight limits that says, “Recommended for ages 0-2+, 5-40 lbs.,” “Recommended for ages 2+, 20-65 lbs.,” and so on.

Labeling on the sides of restraints has improved so much in the past several years. Wording has been simplified and bright colors are being used. It’s time to make text on the boxes practical so parents aren’t stuck buying inappropriate carseats that could put their children at risk.

Safest Family Sedans for 2017

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Safest 2017 Cars for Families:

In Part I, we awarded the safest 3-row vehicles.  In Part II, we awarded 5-passenger SUVs.  In this part, we will look at sedans that have great overall safety and are also typically less expensive to buy and operate than sport utility vehicles. Like our other safest vehicles lists, you don’t have to click through full page ads or slideshows to see the winners! Unlike lists from websites that don’t have expertise on automobile safety, our criteria to qualify are completely objective and based on safety features and crash test results from BOTH the IIHS and NHTSA.  Plus, we go one step farther and tell you the minimum trim level and cost to get a vehicle that qualifies!  Many auto mags won’t tell you that you some vehicles must be special ordered in the costliest trim level and options packages just to get the necessary safety features for your family!

As with the 5-passenger SUVs, we have similar basic requirements to trim the increasingly long list of very safe vehicles to a select few vehicles that stand out from the pack.  We keep a minimum curb weight requirement, an advantage in head-on frontal crashes.  We also limit qualifiers to midsize or larger vehicles that tend to be wider and offer better compatibility for three children or carseats in the back.  That means a lot of very safe vehicles will just miss the cut!  If your car is not on the list, that doesn’t mean it is unsafe!  Requirements:

200Crash

  • Must be an IIHS Top Safety Pick+ for 2016 or 2017
  • Must have 5-star NHTSA overall/frontal/side ratings for 2017
  • Must be over 3,200 lbs. curb weight (midsize & larger sedans)

The qualifiers below are all among the safest sedans on the road.  Many other very safe models just barely missed the list for one reason or another, or simply lacked a complete set of testing results.  For example, many models dropped out of contention for 2017 because of “Marginal” or “Poor” headlight ratings from the IIHS.  The IIHS made some changes for 2017, requiring a “Good” ratings in all their crash tests and also an “Acceptable” or “Good” headlight rating.  The 2017 finalists for safest family sedan:

  1. 2016-2017 Acura RLX*
  2. 2016 Audi A6*
  3. 2016-2017 Chevrolet Malibu*
  4. 2015-2017 Chrysler 200 2WD*
  5. 2017 Genesis G80
  6. 2016-2017 Hyundai Sonata (built after Oct. 2015)*
  7. 2016_leg_photos_ext_102016-2017 Kia Optima*
  8. 2016-2017 Mazda 6
  9. 2016-2017 Nissan Altima
  10. 2016-2017 Nissan Maxima
  11. 2015-2017 Subaru Legacy
  12. 2013-2017 Volvo S60

*We include some models that qualified for a Top Safety Pick+ award in 2016.  They do not meet the IIHS requirements for the 2017 award only due to marginal, poor or untested headlights.

Selecting the winner wasn’t too difficult.  Perfection was the key.  The very safest sedans earn the top “Good” rating in every IIHS crash test, every single sub-category IIHS crash test rating and earned the best “Superior” frontal crash prevention rating by avoiding crashes in both high and low speed testing got 6 points total.  They also earned a 5-star overall rating from the NHTSA and 5-stars in all five individual crash test ratings plus a 5-star rollover rating.  (Note that for 2017, the NHTSA no longer shows results in each individual crash test, so we require 5-star ratings in the frontal and side combined ratings).  This threshold is admittedly very high, so any of our Runners-Up could claim to be just as safe on the road as our winner:

Safest family sedan for 2017:

Caution: Falling Snowflake

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In case any of you were wondering, I’m doing okay. The Blizzard of January 7th was rough on all of us, but we will rebuild. This desert-bum-transplanted-into-the-South will rise again.

Cue jokes about how the North handles the snow vs the South. Ya’ll can joke all you want about us munching on our bread and drinking our milk while a single snowflake falls from the sky but I’d like to see how you handle a tornado. Oh, you don’t get them? Exactly.

Friendly ribbing aside, it’s true that things pretty much shut down out here over snow. In fact, schools were cancelled yesterday and are cancelled again for tomorrow. We got an inch or so on Saturday that promptly melted. That’s it. We’ve had record lows, with our temps not coming above freezing, but that’ll be fixed right quick when it hits 70 by the end of the week. Out here, schools are closed or on delays because our back roads are not treated. We don’t have plows and we don’t have the brine that Charlotte uses on the streets. Even Charlotte isn’t exactly prepared- as a nurse, I was still expected to show up to work in the city this past weekend and while the streets were treated, there wasn’t a soul in sight while I slid my way through that icy-rain. It simply doesn’t make sense to put money toward something that never happens.

That being said, those of us in this position could use some safe driving tips. Those of you who drive through 30 feet of snow every day on their way to work, just humor us here and offer any tips you may have.

-Don’t drive too fast, but also don’t drive too slow. The inchworm like crawl is what leads to jampacked highways, which in turn leads to accidents and stranded drivers. Think this scene from the snow we had in 2014 here in North Carolina:

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Yeah, don’t cause that.

-If you slide, turn into it and don’t brake. Wait till you feel your wheels grip the road and regain control.

-Increase your following distance. It’s gonna take you longer to stop. Which leads to the next tip:

-Don’t stop if you can help it, and if you have to, do it slowly.

-Accelerate and decelerate slowly. Take your time.

-Watch those bridges!

-Make sure you have items in your car you may need if your car breaks down or you slide off the road. Charged phone, flashlight, warm clothing/blankets, etc.

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And pretty much just stay home. Seriously. Schools are closed, a lot of offices are closed, so unless you’re essential personnel, just enjoy it. Sometimes I wonder if the jokes toward the South are slightly based on wishing for a similar “snow-cation”. Everyone needs a day to be “stuck” at home doing nothing, with an excuse for child-like excitement and staring out the windows. Although I suppose when you live where you get multiple feet of snow every winter that isn’t exactly feasible.

We are going on day 4 of “snow effects” even though there’s no snow, and I’m ready for spring. Rivalries aside, I think we can all agree that we can’t wait for warmer weather and sunshine.

 

Stay safe ya’ll. I’ve got a loaf of bread over here if you need it.

Safest Family SUVs for 2017

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Safest 2016-2017 5-passenger SUVs for Families

In Part I, we awarded the safest 3-row vehicles for 6 or more passengers.  In this part, we will look at 5-passenger SUVs for families who don’t need a 3rd row of seating for one reason or another.

To make this year’s list of qualifiers reasonably short for 5-passenger vehicles, our standards are a little stricter than for 3-row SUVs.  In particular, the vehicles must have a Top Safety Pick+ award (for either 2016 or 2017) and 5-stars in all three NHTSA 2017 crash ratings.  That means a lot of very safe vehicles will just miss the cut!  If your SUV is not on the list, that doesn’t mean it is unsafe.  It just means it didn’t quite get the top results like our qualifiers or, in some cases, has not yet been fully crash tested by the NHTSA or IIHS.

  • Must be an IIHS Top Safety Pick+ for 2016 or 2017
  • Must have NHTSA 5-star crash ratings (overall, frontal, side) for 2017.
  • NHTSA rollover rating of 4-stars or above.

There are some new entrants this year, with improved designs and features qualifying for top crash test results.  We may add other models to this list once both the IIHS and NHTSA issue complete crash testing results.  Our qualifiers:

  1. 2016-2017 Acura RDXXC60
  2. 2016-2017 Hyundai Tucson*
  3. 2016-2017 Lincoln MKX*
  4. 2016-2017 Mazda CX-3
  5. 2015-2017 Subaru Outback
  6. 2014-2017 Volvo XC60
  7. 2016-2017 Volvo XC90*

*We include some models that qualified for a Top Safety Pick+ award in 2016.  They do not meet the IIHS requirements for the 2017 award only due to marginal, poor or untested headlights.

Safest SUV for 2017: