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That Time I Got Stuck in a Car, in Public


Jennie Broke itI’ve found myself “stuck” in a car on more than one occasion, usually from installing a child restraint in the back seat and forgetting the child locks were on, requiring me to climb into the front seat to get out.

But until the other day, I had never been truly wedged in a car—and certainly not in such a public venue as where it happened.

You see, Darren and I went to the Chicago Auto Show, and we wanted to try out the features of the upcoming Chrysler Pacifica minivan. He was excited about trying the buttons that fold the third row. I was interested in exploring the strange LATCH set-up in the third row.

In retrospect, we should have taken turns exploring those aspects of the car, because you can’t really do both at once. I was sitting in the third row looking at the LATCH anchors when Darren started pushing buttons. Suddenly the 60 part of the 60/40 split started coming down on me.

“Oops!” Darren laughed, as he pushed other buttons to try to get the seat back up.

“Haha!” I laughed. No problem—I just scooted over a bit onto the other side of the seat, which hadn’t yet folded.

But the 60 side wouldn’t go back up. Darren speculated that maybe it needed to go all the way down first and maybe I was still sitting partially on the seat, blocking its descent. I didn’t seem to be, but I scooted over further onto the 40 side of the split and Darren hit the button again.

Only this time, he accidentally hit the button to fold the seat I was sitting on (again), and this time, I didn’t have anywhere else to move. The 60-side of the seat next to me was still partially folded down, blocking my exit in that direction. There was a man sitting in the captain’s chair in front of me (not that I would have been able to get out that way if it were empty).

No problem. I assumed the seat would have some kind of feature that stopped it from folding if it met resistance.


The seat kept folding and folding, and I kept sliding forward as much as I could (which wasn’t much) to avoid it. After a few seconds, I was completely and literally trapped in the third row of the Chrysler Pacifica. My side and hip were folded up in the third row, and the rest of me was wedged against the seat in front.

It was uncomfortable (my side hurt for a while afterwards), but mostly it was funny, so I laughed. I laughed so hard, in fact, that I had tears (of laughter) streaming down my face. Of course, this whole thing happened right after Chrysler’s big presentation to introduce the minivan, and to the throngs of people milling around it looked like I was crying tears of pain. They stopped to look.

“Is she okay?” I heard a couple people ask Darren.

“I’m fine! I’m just stuck!” I reassured them. “I’m laughing, not crying!”

I’m not sure they believed me. More people gathered around.

Darren gave up on trying to use the buttons to get the seat back up, but he did “help” by taking a picture. Unfortunately it wasn’t a very good picture, so I’ve created an artist’s rendering to give a better idea of what happened:

Artist rendering

Eventually I was able to wiggle out. The seats stayed stuck, though. One of the Chrysler people tried for about ten minutes to get them to work, but after that Darren and I slunk away since we felt bad about breaking their van. (To be fair, the one seat had stopped working even before I got stuck in the other one, so I don’t think it was actually our fault.) We went by a while later, though, and the seats had been restored to their normal position, so I assume they got them working again.

For anyone concerned about the safety or reliability of the folding third-row seats, I’m sure there will be a warning in the manual to clear the area before folding them.   Based on our experience, they will probably design in an automatic stop system!  These were pre-production models at the show that might not have had all bugs worked out, so we were happy(?) to help them find this flaw before they are sold!

But in the future, I’m going to stay out of Darren’s way when he starts pushing buttons.

Stay tuned next week or our preview of the 2017 Chrysler Pacifica minivan.

NHTSA Launches Recall Awareness Campaign


NHTSA-babyleg-160x600Safe cars play a big role in passenger safety. You can be a great driver who always wears a seatbelt, but if your brakes fail all bets are off. Yet each year, a quarter of recalled vehicles go unfixed. Last year there were 900 recalls affecting 51 million vehicles. If 25% of them went unrepaired, that means there are almost 13 million vehicles on the road with potential safety issues—and that’s just from last year.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration wants to change that. They recently launched a new campaign called “Safe Cars Save Lives,” aimed at getting people to check their Vehicle Identification Numbers twice a year for recalls, and to get their vehicles repaired as soon as possible. Dealerships will perform recall fixes for free.

NHTSATo make this easy to remember, NHTSA recommends checking for recalls when you change your clocks for daylight savings in March and November (which is also when you should change the batteries in smoke detectors).

You can check for recalls at this page using a VIN or by looking up makes and models.

NHTSA also held a workshop with industry leaders and researchers to examine why so many recalls go unfixed. Based on discussion from that workshop, NHTSA is asking for input about how recalls can better be communicated to consumers, and how consumers can be encouraged to get their cars fixed. Possible solutions include using electronic communication (texts or emails) rather than or in addition to the traditional mailed notices. You can read about the initiative here and can submit your comments.

Safe and Secure? Your Furniture Should Be


Screen Shot 2016-02-04 at 9.08.36 AMThe week leading up to the Super Bowl is one of the country’s busiest times for buying TVs. But before you kick back with your new big screen, take a few minutes to make sure that TV is safe for your family. And while you’re at it, make your other furniture safe, too.

The Consumer Product Safety Commission is ramping up its “Anchor It” campaign, focused on making sure furniture and TVs are anchored to a wall to prevent tip-overs on small children. According to the CPSC, a child is injured by falling TVs or furniture every 24 minutes, and a child dies from it every two weeks.

If you’re a regular reader of this blog, you probably wear your seatbelt and properly strap your child into an appropriate car seat every time you get in the car. But is anything securing your TV right now? Are your dressers anchored to your walls?

This isn’t the kind of accident anyone is immune from. Even CarseatBlog’s own Alicia, a safety advocate and nurse, had a brush with a dresser tipping over onto her child. Alicia’s son was lucky. A woman in my local SafeKids organization was not. She’s one of the moms featured in this powerful video from CPSC:

Tip-over injuries are so preventable with just a few minutes and the right materials. You can find information on how to secure your furniture and TVs at the CPSC’s page here. Many TVs and pieces of furniture come with anchor kits. If not, or if you have older items to secure, you can find anti-tip kits at home improvement stores or at Amazon.

To paraphrase one of the women in that video, a hole in your wall is far preferable to a hole in your heart.

Are your kids safe in their cart-seat?


shopping cartsShopping carts: They’re something we use almost every time we go to the grocery store, but behind their helpful exterior lurks a potential danger. A child in America is treated in an emergency room every 22 minutes for injuries sustained by shopping carts.

According to data from Nationwide Children’s Hospital, 530,494 children were treated in emergency rooms between 1990 and 2011 for cart-related injuries, and despite voluntary safety standards adopted in 2004, the rate of injury is actually climbing.

The vast majority of injuries (more than 70%) are from falls from the cart, followed by running over/into the cart, cart tip-overs, and entrapment of body parts. The most common type of injury was head injury (78%), and researchers found a 200% increase in concussions over the study period. Most of these injuries were in children 4 and younger.

kid shopping cartExperts say that redesigning carts to have seating areas lower to the ground would be safer both because children wouldn’t have as far to fall and because it would lower the cart’s center of gravity, making it less prone to tipping over. Until that happens (and even if it does) here are some ways you can help keep your kids safe:

  • Never prop infant seats on top of shopping carts. (We’ve written about that before). It’s better to place the seat in the basket of the cart, use a separate stroller (which might require another person), use a built-in infant seat, or wear your baby for shopping trips.
  • Make sure your child is buckled in, whether in the regular shopping-cart seat or an integrated infant seat.
  • Choose carts that have seating areas lower to the ground.
  • Never allow children to stand up in the cart.
  • Never allow children to ride or hang off the front, back, or sides of a cart.
  • Stay with your cart and child at all times.

Shopping with little kids (or big ones!) can sometimes be emotionally painful, but don’t let it turn physically painful, too.