Car Safety Mistake Turned Parenting Hack

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I don’t generally consider myself to be a very creative parent. Mostly, my parenting is trial and (a lot of) error and motivated by a desire to just stay afloat and stave off a child-led coup. So far, so good on the last part, but it has been touch and go on many occasions. In one of these trial and error moments, we learned an important car seat related lesson and it came with a bonus we didn’t expect.

The way the lesson came about is a cautionary tale in itself, if we’re being totally honest. My oldest son, who was newly 6 at the time, refused to get out of the car one day. We had unbuckled him from his seat, but he just would not budge. He was mostly just joking around and we knew it, so we called his bluff and closed the van doors and went inside the house. I do not recommend this, this isn’t my parenting hack and it ended up being really scary for him and fully regrettable for us. I did not realize at the time that my son had no idea how to open the car doors, even though they weren’t locked. We waited just a few minutes for him to come in and then went out to retrieve him, thinking he was just being funny. But instead he was (understandably) pretty upset.

That night after he’d had some time to calm down and we’d had some time to reflect, we went to the car together and we showed him how to open each door, in each car, from the inside, just in case he ever needed to. We showed him where the locks were (both manual and automatic), how to open the trunk and how to use the horn for attention if he ever found himself stuck in the car again. We honestly didn’t realize until that moment how little he knew about the car because we had been doing all those parts for him. Since we had to open a door to free him from his harnessed seat, he’d never had the opportunity even to try to get out of the car on his own.

Once we realized how dangerous this lack of knowledge could be, how easily he could get trapped inside a car, we brought his 4 year old brother out and did the same, with more emphasis on how to get attention from others because we didn’t expect him to retain as many of the skills of operating the car doors/locks as his brother.

We knew that kids get trapped in cars all the time and that with summer approaching, the consequences of that can be tragic. But we were so sure that it couldn’t happen to us (as car seat aficionados) that we forgot to actually do the parenting things that would ensure that it wouldn’t. As we continued to think about the situation over the course of a few days, we realized that all of the things we taught him were useless if our son (and his brothers) were still trapped in their seats.

We spent the next few weeks teaching our oldest child how to get out of a 5-point harness. Fortunately he could reach the tab that loosened the harness in his seat, because he was able to get better leverage on the crotch buckle with a little bit of slack in the harness. But even still, about 50 percent of the time, he couldn’t get the buckle undone. So we showed him how to loosen his harness fully, unclip his chest clip and climb out. It wasn’t easy, and shoes had to be removed, but with enough slack he could do it. Once he mastered this, we felt like he had finally reached a point where if something happened, he could get out and get help. We didn’t teach his younger brother how to escape because we knew that he didn’t have the maturity to handle that particular skill and I didn’t want him climbing into the front seat while I was driving on the freeway.

After all that effort, what I didn’t expect was the unintended bonus of all this practice. See, not only can my oldest son get himself out of his car seat and get out of the car, now he can get HIS BROTHER OUT. Like every morning at school drop off. Instead of me tromping around to both sides of the car to remove all the kids, now my oldest son gets himself out (he’s finally transitioned to a booster safely) and then releases one brother and I get the other. I don’t think he’s happier, but I am, and so it probably trickles down somehow.

There are a few morals here, but I hope you’ll take away from this that it’s important to show your kids how to get out of the car, even if you think they know and how to get attention from others if they’re trapped. And if you do that, you may find that in the end it doesn’t just make your kids safer, but it may make your life easier, too.

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Back Seat May Not Be The Safest Place for Your Child? Wait….What?

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You may be seeing news headlines about a new project to research the safety of rear seat occupants.  Unfortunately, some media outlets have misinterpreted the intent of the study and have some very misleading headlines.  “Study shows the back seat may not be the safest place for your child in a front-end collision,” says NBC News and some of its affiliates.  Though new studies sometimes do contradict old research, that is not the current intent of this new paper from the IIHS.

NBCnews.com

Now consider the headline of the IIHS press release, “Rear-seat occupant protection hasn’t kept pace with the front.”  In fact, that is exactly the purpose of this new project.  The IIHS is developing a new crash test to help promote improvements in safety for rear seat occupants.  This study was not designed and likely does not have enough statistical information to change our current recommendation to keep all children 12 and under in the back seat whenever possible.

According to Russ Rader, Senior Vice President of Communications at the IIHS:

While we looked at real-world cases involving occupants age 6 and older, the focus is on adult passengers because they appear to be the most vulnerable to seat belt-related injuries to the chest, especially the oldest occupants.   The long-standing recommendation to parents hasn’t changed: The back seat is still overall the safest place for properly restrained children to ride.

It is important to point out that in a study like this we seek out the cases where people were seriously injured in order to understand what engineering changes might have affected the outcome.  It is also important to look at the entire population that could be affected by any changes in order to make sure that solutions for older vulnerable occupants do not negatively impact children.

Photo courtesy of IIHS

Be a smart consumer of news and know that the media is trying to draw your attention. When it comes to the safety of your child, find all the facts before making any decisions.  Please keep your children age 12 and under properly restrained in the back seat if at all possible!  If you have no other option than to place a child in the front passenger seat, please feel free to contact us through our facebook page or talk any child passenger safety technician for safest practice recommendations!  If best practice advice ever changes in the future, we will be sure to inform you, as will the IIHS, NHTSA and other occupant safety agencies.

CarseatBlog Quick Tip: Using a Ceiling Seat Belt

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We see this question a lot: can I use the seat belt that comes down from the ceiling/roof of my SUV to install my carseat? Sure! Of course, double-check the seat belt section of your carseat owner’s manual and the child seat section of your vehicle owner’s manual, but as of this writing, I haven’t come across any combinations that disallow it.

First you have to assemble it to make it a usable seat belt. When you pull it down from the ceiling—or, in the case of some sedans, down from the top of the back seat near the parcel shelf—you have 2 latchplates (the metal male end) which will make your lap/shoulder belt. The end latchplate is usually smaller, looks different, and gets buckled first on the same side from which the seat belt comes from the ceiling. Now you have your lap/shoulder belt and can use it like any other seat belt.

  

Pro tip:

To stow that seat belt out of the way, use its latchplate or a key to unbuckle it and retract it back into the ceiling. There will be a slot on the side of the smaller buckle which will pop the smaller latchplate out. After unbuckling it, let it retract and you’re ready to go!

Cybex Introduces Sirona S: First Convertible Car Seat with Load Leg in North America

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Cybex Sirona S Convertible Car Seat Preview: Swivels for Convenience, Load Leg for Safety, SensorSafe for Peace of Mind

We’re thrilled that Cybex is working on an epic, game-changing convertible car seat: the Sirona S. Not only does Sirona S swivel 360 degrees for easy loading and unloading of children, it will also be the first convertible car seat in North America to have a load leg, a safety feature that significantly enhances crash protection in a frontal crash. As if that wasn’t enough, the Sirona S will also come standard with SensorSafe technology, which is built into the chest clip. Although unexpected delays are always a possibility, Cybex estimates that the Sirona S will be available in October 2019 and will be arriving in Canada (hopefully) a few weeks after the U.S. launch.

Sirona S Specs & Features:
  • Rear-facing: 4-50 lbs.
  • Forward-facing: 22-65 lbs.
  • LATCH weight limits: 35 lbs. RF, 40 lbs. FF
  • Maximum harness height: 17″
  • Swivels for easy loading or switching between modes
  • Multi-position load leg with indicators
  • No-rethread harness with easy height adjuster
  • 7 recline positions rear-facing
  • 4 recline positions forward-facing
  • SensorSafe chest clip with bluetooth/app reminders and alerts
  • Pop-out Linear Side-Impact Protection
  • MSRP: $499

  

With features like swivel and load leg that are currently unique to the USA market, plus safety enhancements like LSP and SensorSafe, we deem it a “Shut Up and Take My Money” Award winner!  We acknowledge that $499 is a lot of money for a car seat but just like automobiles, innovations almost always launch on premium products and eventually work their way down to more affordable models. We hope consumers in North America understand and appreciate the safety benefits of a load leg because this is the evolution of crash protection for children!

2019 CarseatBlog Shut Up and Take My Money Award Winner: Cybex Sirona S

 

Better than a JPMA award!

The Sirona S has a single belt path for both rear- and forward facing, with a seatbelt/lower anchor belt tensioner for simple and secure installation. Once installed, the seat can swivel 360 degrees on its base, allowing parents to get kids in and out without having to lift them over the sides. This can be a convenience for any caregivers, but especially those who might have mobility difficulties. The swivel feature will also make it easy to switch between rear- and forward-facing for situations where two or more kids might share a seat.

An indicator on the load leg will show when the seat is engaged in rear-facing or forward-facing mode since driving with the seat sideways will be neither secure nor allowed!

The telescoping load leg can be used rear-facing and forward-facing. Until now, the US has only seen load legs on rear-facing-only infant seats, so having one that can be used with larger children, rear-facing or forward-facing is a very big deal. For a rear-facing seat, the load leg prevents downward rotation in a frontal crash – maintaining a more upright position throughout the crash. This significantly improves crash protection and also reduces the secondary rebound rotation that a rear-facing car seat will experience in a frontal crash. Additionally, a load leg greatly reduces the likelihood that a rear-facing car seat will make contact with the front seat. For forward-facing, similar principles apply. The load leg will decrease how far the seat moves in a frontal crash, thus reducing head excursion (or how far forward a child’s head moves) in a crash.

As usual, there is a tether on the back of the seat’s shell for forward-facing, and it would need to be unhooked from the tether anchor in the vehicle before you are able to swivel the seat when it’s installed for forward-facing use. We mused whether people would be able to use the load leg in place of the tether to potentially reduce head excursion (in situations where a tether anchor wasn’t available) but at this point we aren’t sure if that’s even a possibility. Due to current federal regulations, car seat manufacturers can’t use the load leg to comply with FMVSS 213 standards since the test bench doesn’t have a floor. Cybex is testing the seat with load leg using a modified 213 sled, but even then, legal issues (including mandatory tether usage in Canada) make it seem unlikely that Cybex will ever say it’s okay to use the load leg as a substitute for using the tether. Keep in mind that all seats in the US have to pass testing with and without a tether so it’s almost always possible to install a forward-facing car seat without tethering it, **if there is no tether anchor available**. (Note: there are some exceptions for seats rated beyond 65 lbs. in the U.S. that REQUIRE tethering and all forward-facing seats in Canada REQUIRE installation using the tether). The bottom line here is that this is uncharted territory in North America, so it’s going to be complicated for Cybex to navigate these waters.

Cybex plans to release the Sirona S in the United States in fall 2019 with the release in Canada a few weeks later. The seat will retail for about $499. Stay tuned for more information and a full review when production-model seats are available.

Watch our video for a demonstration of key features. (Note that the seat is NOT actually in full recline position when Kecia states it is. The prototype was a bit sticky. It does recline more for younger babies.)