Monthly Archive:: March 2012

Are the New Cell Phone Laws Working?


As I was running errands the other day, I was yet again cut off by someone oblivious to my presence because she was talking on the phone. Then she had the nerve to wave her hands at me as if *I* had cut her off. Since we have a hands-free law in place, it made me wonder if it does any good whatsoever.

Every day–EVERY DAY–I see parents speeding through my kids’ school zones, hand up to ear. It’s bad enough they’re talking on the phone, but they’re speeding too. I’ve always wondered what these folks are thinking. Do they wonder why everyone else is going slow? Do they think their kids are the only ones that matter? To me, it smacks of disrespect. They clearly don’t respect my kids if they’re willing to maim or kill them. You can only blame ignorance for so long.

Not too long ago, there was a parent, with her cell up to her ear, blocking the crosswalk I was in as I crossed the street to pick up my dd from school. She had no idea I was there and I waited patiently in the middle of a travel lane while she sat there; I thought certainly she’d move on out of the way. After a few seconds, I tapped her car with my hand–I surely didn’t want to startle her. I hit the car harder when she didn’t hear me. Yup, nasty look in my direction. Sheesh. ‘Cause it was my fault she parked her car in the middle of a freaking crosswalk.

In 2009, the Highway Loss Data Institute, a division of the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS), studied cell phone bans and their effectiveness in reducing insurance claims (a.k.a. crashes). What they found was that handheld cell phone bans did not influence insurance claims. They compared states with laws to neighboring states without and found they trended the same. What they didn’t study was whether handheld cell phone bans reduced the frequency of calls and texts. If the insurance claims remained similar in those states with bans compared to those without bans, it might tell us that drivers using Bluetooth devices are still distracted. A University of Utah study concluded just that, along with comparing cell phone use with drunk driving. Though the driving behaviors of drunks and cell phone users are different, the end result is the same: impaired driving that can result in injury or death.

However, a more recent University of California, Berkeley study shows that in California, which has had a 4 year ban on hand-held cell phones while driving, deaths and injuries blamed on drivers using hand-held cells dropped by nearly half. That’s a pretty significant difference in study findings, though we are comparing collision statistics to deaths and injuries.

Regardless, we do know that distracted drivers cause problems. From what I’ve seen in driving around town, our 7-month old hand-held cellphone ban has done nothing to change driver behaviors. And why should it with a fine of only $50? Behaviors aren’t going to change unless drivers feel threatened—and for fifty bucks? Not gonna happen. I’ve made a conscious effort to make phone calls while parked and to not touch my cell phone while driving, so I know the law has changed my behavior. But I’m a law-abiding person in the first place, so I’m not going to be the one to test out whether or not that cop next to me sees my hand on the phone. Really what we all need to do, including cops, is hang up and drive.

A surefire way to prevent car crashes?


It’s spring break here.  I’m technically on vacation.  Of course, vacation almost always has wifi these days, so I’m getting in a quick blog!

In December, my wife said she wanted to be someplace warm with a nice, sandy beach. Maybe an island with one of those all-inclusive family resorts.  Preferably some place with a reef for snorkeling.  Not one of those seaweed-ridden beaches or rock strewn muddy accesses to the water that some places describe as a “pristine beach”.  As family vacation planner, I looked around.  Key West was a contender, but it’s not well known for beautiful sandy beaches and it’s not a guarantee of warm weather in March.  Plus, airfares to Miami were unusually high, probably from the college crowd looking for the same thing.  San Diego wasn’t any cheaper.  Hawaii was even more expensive and getting to be a very long flight from Chicago.

I checked Mexico and the Caribbean next.  Along with my wife’s requirements, my main requirements for travel with kids are a non-stop flight and some type of room or suite with at least 4 beds (including a sofabed or rollaway).  Those are pretty easy to find in the USA.  We stay at Homewood Suites, Residence Inns, Staybridge and others quite a bit on road trips.  Such rooms aren’t all that easy to find outside the USA, making it more difficult for families with spoiled kids (and dads), like our family.  In addition, non-stops aren’t all that common from Chicago to the Caribbean, perhaps only a dozen destinations.  Cheap non-stops and cheap suites were even harder to find, as many flights and rooms were already booked.  Most of those great all-inclusive family resorts were quickly eliminated due to flights with 1 or 2 connections, less than ideal rooms or stupid-high prices.  With a few exceptions, most of the islands required connections and the few with Chicago non-stops were approaching $1000 roundtrip.  So much for that!

The list narrowed down quickly.  If only we had decided on a spring break vacation months earlier!  American had a relatively cheap flight to Cozumel with 5 low fare seats.  I found a place that wasn’t too expensive.  It was a loft kitchenette with 2 beds in the loft and a queen bed on the main floor and a rollaway was available.  Not ideal, but workable.  Problem was, the place had beautiful water access, but it was rocky access right into the awesome reef with no real beach.  They did offer beach access a short bus trip away.  We visited Cancun before we had kids.  It was kind of touristy.  We also had the misfortune of hitting a late tropical depression that forced our Cozumel scuba trip to be cancelled.  It wasn’t the greatest trip destination, but Cozumel did look pretty cool.  On the other hand, American had literally just declared bankruptcy.  I was a little concerned about having flights eliminated over the coming months.

The other option with relatively cheap non-stop airfare from Chicago was Aruba on United.  We had been to Aruba, too.  We went to see a total eclipse there almost 15 years ago.  We’re told the reefs were great for scuba, but we never found out because DW learned she was pregnant before the trip (nevermind the local legends about being exposed to an eclipse while pregnant!).  Otherwise, it was a nice place, but not nearly as exotic as the tropical image its name conjures.  It was rather touristy and a little beaten down 15 years ago, so I envisioned it not being much different today (and it’s not).  On the plus side, it’s well known for awesome beaches.  I found a place at the end of Eagle Beach, rated among the best beaches in the world.  Two bedrooms, 3 beds plus sofabed.  Great reviews on Trip Advisor.  With that, we decided to go back to Aruba, despite the 5-hour flight with the kids (that turned out to be pretty easy).  The roughest part of the travel day turned out to be the immigration line.  It was awful.  As we’ve noted in our travels outside the USA in the past, the concept of a line is often a mere suggestion, as is the case in Aruba.

So, here I am, on our hotel room deck.  I just got back from the awesome beach that easily lived up to expectations.  The very nice hotel has a great little bar and beach access right across the street.  Kecia will be proud of me, I had my first margarita before noon!  Then, I lounged with the other two kids while reading my book “Ready Player One“, something recommended by a friend.  DS1 is allergic to water immersion, so he sat next to me, reading a school assignment.  Meanwhile, DD got a tan and DW took our DS2 into the ocean. As I sat there on the beach reading my book on my Kindle and being amused by all the references right out of my teenage years, the irony that I was an authentic 1980s computer geek was not lost upon me.   And now here I am blogging about it.  Lolz!

So what’s all this have to do with car crashes?  Well, nothing really.  But I’ll tell you one thing about Aruba you might not envision.  Traffic.  Lots of it.  Lots of older, smaller cars.  Lots of dangerous intersections.  I brought a Bubble Bum for 6-year old DS, but haven’t used it.  We opted to avoid car crashes altogether.  How?  We’re using public transport on this trip.  The DePalm Tours airport transfer (think Mears airport bus) was great and the Arubus city buses stop right out front of our hotel and go everywhere you’d want to go for just over two bucks round trip.  We didn’t bother to rent a car.  As the airport bus driver joked, the island has a population of 120,000 people and has almost that number of cars.  They’re all on the main roads, too.  If only people would take public transportation.

Sometimes, having a car really doesn’t buy you much freedom.  Plus, depending on the car and where you are driving, it’s not all that safe, either.  These days, my “job” pretty much is based on the auto industry.  Even so, I can’t help but think that cars are inherently bad in many ways.  I sure like driving them, but is it really worth the cost to the environment, to world political struggles, or to all those who die in traffic crashes each year?  Well, this beach is really pretty.  I hope it’s still here and my kids can visit it with their children decades from now.  I suppose it will too expensive to fly there and the beach will be marred with oil wells, sucking the last remnants of dino fuel out of the ground:-(  Visions of the “Terra Nova” episode and “Ready Player One” have stuck in my head from the last day.  I’ll douse those with another margarita, as I’m off to lunch…

Lap Babies on Airplane – A Warning All Parents Must See


Have you ever experienced severe turbulence during a flight? I’m talking way past little bumps and jolts? If you have, chances are you’ll never forget it. I can think of one particular flight out of JFK on a crazy windy Spring morning. My stomach does flips just thinking about it.

Now think about this – the plane can’t take off if my purse is on my lap, right? And there’s like 3 pages of regulations on how the coffee pot needs to be properly secured. But babies? Sure, they can ride totally unsecured because apparently babies are able to defy the laws of physics on an airplane!

Okay, so we know that’s not true. But have you considered what happens to lap babies when the plane suddenly, and without warning, drops several hundred feet in an instant?  This video from NTSB (National Transportation Safety Board) really spells it out. Please take a few minutes to check it out and pass on the information to other parents.

The FAA’s continued allowance of lap babies is shameful and ludicrous. Unfortunately, many parents will continue to take advantage of this “freebie” because it saves them money. Of course, they’ll have to cough up the dough for the Little Prince/Princess to have his or her own seat on the plane once they pass their second birthday. So what’s the big deal with requiring it for all children regardless of age? Traveling is expensive. Heck, kids are expensive!  But please don’t be penny wise and pound foolish when it comes to your most precious cargo.  Buy a ticket for your child regardless of their age, bring a 5-pt harness carseat on board and buckle your child in it just as you would in the car. Your children will not only be safe in case of turbulence or (Heaven forbid) in case you have to make a rough emergency landing but they’ll be happily contained in familiar surroundings. And if you’re really lucky they’ll just fall asleep so you can have a relaxing and, hopefully, uneventful flight.

Looking for more helpful information on flying the friendly skies with kids? Check out our related blogs on the subject:

Recommended Carseats for Airplane Travel

Flying with a Car Seat? Know Your Rights!

Airplanes, Carseats, and Kids—What You Need to Know Pt. 1

Airplanes, Carseats, and Kids—What You Need to Know Pt. 2

Clek Foonf: The Video


I know Chris from Clek has a loyal fan base among our readers, so I thought you’d all appreciate his demonstration of the Foonf!  It sounds like we are still on schedule for a summer launch of the highly anticipated Clek convertible carseat.  Thanks to Galt Baby for their time and parking lot, where we were able to see the latest prototype Foonf in a vehicle.  Please keep in mind that as a prototype, it may vary from the retail version in dimensions, ratings, colors and features.  What you see in this video may not be exactly what you see when it arrives on showroom shelves!  So, without further ado, here’s Chris showing off the Foonf: