So, we’ve had a bit of a banner year, both for CSFTL and the Child Passenger Safety world in general. The team left 2013 still finding its footing, moving from a loose structure to a formal and incorporated one, with bylaws and an elected board of directors, and a carefully chosen mission statement. We finished the year with an even more expanded structure, more employees and a 501(c)(3) status from the IRS. And we have none other to thank for it than our dear readers and followers, whose support has made it possible and moreover, worthwhile.
And somehow, in the middle of all this paperwork minutiae, the world of child passenger safety pitched plenty of car seat curve balls our way. Some of them, we’ve batted more gracefully than others!
2014 opened with one of our least favorite things: a widespread recall. Bucklepocalypse 2014 took over the media for weeks, even months, affecting millions of Graco, Evenflo, and Baby Trend car seats. Our team worked overtime to help keep parents & caregivers informed, reminding them not to panic. If you haven’t gotten around to replacing an affected buckle yet, its easy to do so via Graco, Evenflo, or Baby Trend.
Thank science THAT is over. I would like to wish for no major car seat recalls in 2015, please.
Early 2014 brought some changes to car seat labeling. All seats manufactured after February 27, 2014 now feature a label indicating their lower anchor weight limit. Hooray! No more consulting the LATCH Manual and trying to count 65-27 on my fingers! Now the car seat simply says to use a seat belt installation if the child weighs over a certain amount, AND NHTSA has allowed the car seat manufacturers to round the number, so they will all be multiples of 5. We appreciate this nod toward simplicity.
In June, we welcomed a brand new seat to the market, the Graco 4Ever. We were skeptical, to say the least. One seat, 4Ever? #yeahright. We’ve seen it before, and it’s never awe-inspiring. All in one seats are traditionally hard to install, or they never really last as long as the box says they will, or they just plain don’t work in one or more of their functions.
Not the 4Ever though. First, we found out it would fit a preemie. Then, that it would last rear facing well past 3 for the average kid. And then? The top harness slots are tall enough to accommodate well through kindergarten. But wait, there’s more! The booster fit is great, it has a 10 year expiration, and to switch between modes the harness just tucks into these neat little holes. AND you don’t need a Ford Excursion in order to fit it in your backseat. We thought we were being punked. Surely there had to be a catch…. but there really isn’t. We take our hats off to you, Graco. The market has been waiting and you not only did it, you knocked it out of the park.
In case the 4Ever wasn’t enough of a car seat milestone, Graco wasn’t finished yet. They gave us another Milestone (see what we did there!), which we loved almost as much as the 4Ever. With the ability to fit from newborn to around age 7-8, it gave us another Graco milestone to be excited about for 2014.
Summer 2014 was full of travel for the CSFTL Team. Unfortunately, our destinations did not include tropical beaches with umbrella drinks. A close second, however, they included many car seats. In August, we attended Kidz in Motion and we made a new friend: Ryan Hawker, of Dorel Juvenile Group. Ryan told us about a few new & improved seats we could look forward to from Cosco; the Scenera Next and the Apt 50. We were excited about these updated seats, but we were blown away by what Ryan had to tell us next. The Big News from KIM 2014 was that Scenera Next and the Apt 50 will feature labeling that sets a two-year minimum in order to use the seat forward facing. This is HUGE news for child passenger safety. It’s a struggle to explain to parents why their children need to be rear facing as long as possible when their car seat label tells them the seat can be used forward facing when the child is a year old and weighs 20 lbs. Dorel is setting the bar high for other manufacturers to take notice, and we hope the trend spreads.
Even more exciting was YOUR reaction to this news. We couldn’t have predicted the overwhelmingly positive response we received on Facebook. Ryan became a little bit of an internet superstar that day!
September brought us to the ABC Kids Expo in Las Vegas. We saw many, many car seats and walked many, many steps. There were many highlights: on day one we saw the Clek Infant Thingy and got our first look at the Clek Fllo. We saw many lovely new fabrics and were thrilled to discover the triumphant return of the Diono Monterey booster to the market. On day two we met the fabulous Graco team. One of the best things about ABC was the opportunity to meet face to face with so many great individuals who we have worked with extensively via email and telephone. We’ve always known that behind the doors of the car seat manufacturers’ headquarters there are dedicated individuals focusing day in and day out on the products that keep our kids safe in the backseat. However, meeting those individuals in person who share our same passions was quite a rewarding experience. ABC Day three reunited us with Ryan Hawker, with whom we shared many more high fives regarding their two-year forward facing minimums.
In October, we were privileged to be invited to participate in a two day technician advisory panel at Newell Rubbermaid headquarters in Atlanta, Georgia. Newell Rubbermaid is the parent company for Graco Children’s Products, and this advisory panel was all about what Graco can do to make their seats even better from a CPST’s perspective. You didn’t hear much about this from us because the panel involved a lot of top secret info, for which our lips are sealed. It was an amazing experience that showed just how committed Graco is to making products that keep kids as safe as possible and are easy for caregivers to use correctly.
In November, this beauty arrived at my doorstep. The Britax Advocate ClickTight is another of our favorite things for 2014. In 2013, Britax made car seat installation simple with the Frontier 90 combination car seat. We have patiently waited and hoped that they would bring it to their line of convertible car seats. They not only did it, they also increased the height allowances both rear and forward facing. It practically installs itself, and fits big kids rear AND forward facing? What more could we possibly ask for? Look for our full review next week!
In December, a little email popped up in my inbox. An email from Ryan Hawker, asking if we thought it would be a nice idea for them to increase the rear facing weight limit on the Safety 1st Advance Air to 50 lbs and 52″ without increasing the price tag. WELL OF COURSE YES! HOW QUICKLY CAN YOU DO THAT, RYAN? *ahem* OK, once the CSFTL team collected ourselves enough to reply with less caps lock, we realized Ryan wanted to hear from you, too.
So, we asked you. And boy, oh boy did you reply. If we thought the summer’s news about a two-year minimum for forward facing shook up our Facebook page, we had another thing coming. The response was absolutely unbelievable. The longer we can keep kids rear facing, the safer they are. And the more accessible we can make that to parents, the better.
A few weeks later, we visited Dorel Juvenile Group headquarters to celebrate the launch of the Scenera Next and we were ecstatic to hear that after the overwhelmingly positive response, the Advance Air is getting a new label in April 2015, one that reflects a rear facing weight limit of 50 lbs, but the price tag? It stays the same, WELL under $200.
We saw some pretty amazing new technology in 2014, and some long-awaited advances in industry standards. A common theme for us was amazing news delivered by none other than Ryan Hawker, and we felt like he deserved a little recognition for playing such a vital part in our favorite moments in child passenger safety this year. Thank you, Ryan!
We can’t wait to see what 2015 holds in store for child passenger safety, and we can’t wait to share it with you. Happy New Year !