Monthly Archive:: May 2011

The Joy of Hybrids: Part I


I’ve been driving a minivan for about a decade.  I’ve eyed those sports and luxury cars at auto shows or as they whiz past me on the road.  I’d love to have a Dodge Challenger R/T, an Audi A4 Quattro or perhaps a BMW 650i convertible.  With limitations due to kids and budget, they just didn’t quite ever work into the picture.  Instead, lesser-auto-equipped guys like me have to compensate with stupid driving.

For most, that means aggressive driving.  Jackrabbit starts in suburbia at one stoplight.  Speed up to 60mph in a 45mph zone for half a mile, then stop at the next light.  Repeat.  Repeat.  Repeat.  Swerving around one driver doing ‘only’ 5-10 mph over the limit, only to be blocked a few moments later by the next one.  Frequent changes to the other lane that is moving faster, only to have it slow down, prompting a switch back.   Tailgating within a few feet of someone’s bumper, to let the driver ahead know that they should be going even faster, then once they move out of the way, doing the same to the next car, and so on.  Frequent horn use, to make sure everyone knows how their driving didn’t meet your expectations.  Constant gear changes, even with an automatic, for no other reason than it’s there.  Road Rage.  All dangerous stuff, to be sure, and while guys may be the usual suspects, the same behaviors affect both genders.  For what?  To shave literally just a couple minutes off of a 45 minute commute.

A step down from that are passive-aggressive drivers, whose efforts are mostly to annoy other drivers on the road.  I qualify as a subset of that group, something I might call “passive anti-aggressive” drivers.

Without a Sound


A couple weeks ago I wrote a post about water safety and how important it is to get kids in swimming lessons.

Today I learned why I should heed my own advice. Today I learned just how easy it must be for children to drown without a sound.

See, in that last post I mentioned that my kids started swimming lessons when they were six months old. That’s only part of the story. My son started lessons as an infant and has continued on, nearly every week, for the past six years.

My daughter, on the other hand, started lessons at six months, but we stopped after just a few weeks. She loved the water but had terrible separation anxiety. Even if I was in the pool with her–even if I was in the pool HOLDING her–she would scream just at the thought of having to go with another person. It got to the point that the instructor couldn’t even give me directions on what to do because my daughter would not ease her death-grip on my shoulders, plus it was hard to hear him over all the screaming.

We decided it was best to take a break for a few months. But a few months turned into more than a year. We have been talking about getting her back into lessons, and I keep meaning to call and see about a schedule that will work with both kids, but I just haven’t gotten around to it.

Then today something happened that made me realize I need to get my butt in gear.

We went to my son’s swimming lesson, as we do every week. My daughter split her time between me and the pinwheels they have in planters along the wall. There’s a good deal of space between the planters and the pool: A few feet of open space, some tables and chairs, then the planters behind those.

As I was helping my son dry off and get dressed after his lesson, I noticed my daughter wandering farther down the wall than I was comfortable with. I called to her to come back; that she had gone too far. She started back toward me and I watched her, but only out of the corner of my eye.

She was there in my peripheral vision–and then suddenly she wasn’t.

I don’t remember hearing a sound, or if I did it was very quiet. If anything, it was a small plop, not the big splash of a child jumping into a pool. There were a couple ripples of water. But I didn’t see her. She had literally vanished.

It’s amazing how many thoughts can run through your mind in a split second. I thought for sure that she had walked down behind another wall. She hadn’t been anywhere near the pool’s edge when I told her to come back. But I also know that when a child is missing near a pool, that’s the first place you check.

So as I was trying to process what had happened, I was also leaping up and running to the ripple. I didn’t see her until I got right up next to the edge, but there she was, flailing in the water.

An instructor was in the pool, too, and reached her at the same time I did. He was very calm and simply told her, “Put your toes down,” and pushed down on her feet, causing the rest of her body to go up. He kept a hand on her until I could pull her out. (At least I think that’s what happened. I wasn’t quite as calm as he was.)

I got her out and gave her a huge hug. She cried for a long time but was otherwise fine.

Once I settled down I marveled at how she instinctively tried to tread while in the pool and how she didn’t inhale any water even though her head was submerged almost the entire time. (Even after the instructor helped her, she still bobbed up and down a bit.) I took it as further evidence of how young children have natural instincts when it comes to learning how to swim–instincts that need to be carefully honed, of course.

She was scared but a few hours later doesn’t seem traumatized by the ordeal. I can’t say the same for myself. I keep thinking of how things might have been different if my head had been turned just a smidge more to my left, or if there hadn’t been an instructor in the pool. It reinforced for me how quickly and silently tragedy can strike. And it solidified in my mind that as soon as the swim school office opens back up, I will be on the phone scheduling her next lesson.

Britax Frontier 85 SICT Unboxing


We scooped the details on the Frontier 85 SICT back in April.  Today we have one to show you.  There are only a few changes, so we won’t be having a full review, but we may feature it in a video or two.  The changes include the addition of side impact cushions to reduce crash forces on the child occupant and on adjacent passengers.  There is also a new 2-piece cover that is easier to remove than before and an updated fabric to replace the “mesh” fabric on the Frontier 85.  Finally, the Frontier 85 SICT is permitted to be used without a top tether to its weight limit.  This allows for greater vehicle compatibility, as some vehicles may prohibit top tether use beyond a certain weight.  Of course, Britax ALWAYS recommends that the top-tether be used whenever possible, according to the instructions.  The Frontier 85 SICT should be available retail by June 1st!

Our review of the Frontier 85 applies to the Frontier 85 SICT, with the changes noted above.  Among its various benefits, it still features the highest top harness strap height settings for a retail combination seat in the USA and also a relatively generous head restraint height for booster mode, too.  The Frontier 85 is a “Best Bet” in booster mode from the IIHS, too.

Chevrolet Volt Review: Kids, Carseats and Safety


It’s true.  Not only are muscle cars, hot rods, V8 luxo-cruisers, super-extendo-cab 1-ton pickups and earth-destroyer SUVs  no longer cool, but they are rapidly becoming shameful.  So what’s hip to be seen cruising the strip?  Mini-cars, ultra-econo-sedans, clean diesels, hybrids and, especially, extended range plug-in electric vehicles.  While many gas-guzzler ads laughably brag about gettting over 20 mpg highway, the reality is that many of us spend a good portion of our driving in a commute or getting between stop signs and lights in suburbia.  Getting 12 mpg or even 16mpg around town is sooo 1980s.  No, CarseatBlog isn’t taking a break from giving you over-hyped, holier-than-thou information on keeping your kids safe in motor vehicle crashes.  We’re just adding some over-hyped, holier-than-thou information on protecting them from the effects of airborne environmental triggers, toxic air pollutants and long term political consequences of our rampant lust for imported oil.  At $4.50 for regular, who can blame us?

That’s where the new 2011 Chevrolet Volt arrives to give new technology buyers a way to have the coolest ride in town.  The question is, aside from gas savings and pure coolness, will it haul kids and adults safely to their destination?  The quick answer is a resounding YES! (Provided you have a small family or a larger second vehicle!).