Sunday, May 15, 2011

We have a NEW blog -

The Car Seat Lady Blog has moved to a new home - we have lots more content and a MUCH more user-friendly layout that will enable you to easily see old posts and information that you will want to have handy for referencing.  We've added videos, info on center LATCH, and lots more - so please check it out!

FYI: All the posts (including comments) from this blog have been safely transferred to our new blog.

Monday, April 11, 2011

NYC Taxi of Tomorrow Survey - Let YOUR VOICE BE HEARD when The Car Seat Lady meets with the NYC Taxi & Limousine Commission

Monday, April 4, 2011

The Car Seat Lady does NOT RECOMMEND the Easycarseat Inflatable Booster as it FAILED US crash testing (according to official testing results released by Easycarseat)

Easycarseat Inflatable Booster
I have recently become aware of the Easycarseat Inflatable Booster.  After having done some research, I have to admit I am very concerned - namely because the product positions the lap belt exactly where it should not be (i.e. on the soft, vulnerable abdomen) AND the seat FAILED the required US crash testing according to documents released by the manufacturer on their own website.

First, let me just say - the "inflatable" part of this product does NOT worry me.  There are many pieces of safety equipment - such as life rafts - that are inflatable, yet at the same time safe and durable.

The Easycarseat is not the only inflatable booster.  The Bubble Bum, which is available widely across Europe, will soon be available in the US too.  To highlight my point that it is not the inflatable nature of the Easycarseat booster that most worries me, I will show how the Bubble Bum is not plagued by similar problems.

Before sharing my concerns about the Easycarseat, I need to explain a few key points about boosters:

1.  Boosters are NOT restraint devices - they are POSITIONING devices
  • Car seats, where the child uses a 5 point harness, are restraint devices.  Booster seats are positioning devices - as it is the vehicle's seat belt that is restraining the child, while the booster is keeping the seat belt properly positioned.
  • Restraint devices are "load bearing" - meaning that they must be able to withstand the energy of a crash and help absorb and then transfer the remaining energy to the child's body in a way that the body can handle it.  Positioning devices are NOT "load bearing."  This is why booster seats can be made of much lighter materials - like styrofoam, plastic, and even inflatable materials - than a 5-point-harness car seat and still perform excellently in a crash 
2.  Boosters are meant to position the seat belt properly on the child's body
Proper belt fit using Volvo Built in Booster -
Hip bones shown in BLUE  (C) Volvo
  • Kids need boosters not because the law says so, but because they get unnecessarily injured in crashes when riding in just a seat belt.  It's not enough to use a booster - you have to use a booster that will position the seat belt properly on the child's body.  
  • The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety has a great section on boosters - including a list of boosters currently on the market and how well each positions the seat belt properly on a typical child's body.  I would strongly recommend checking this site if you are in the market for a new booster - or if you are curious if the booster you have is doing a good job positioning the seat belt on your child's body.  
  • Proper belt fit means that the lap belt is on the tops of the child's thighs - so that it rests on the strong hip bones - and stays on the child's thighs during a crash.  When the lap belt slides up into the soft, vulnerable abdomen, kids get a pattern of injuries known as "seat belt syndrome" - which includes lower spinal cord injuries along with injuries to the intestines, kidneys, spleen, bladder, liver and aorta.
3.  A poorly fitting LAP belt causes serious injuries - a shoulder belt that rubs the neck does NOT cause serious injuries 

Here are nine studies, amongst many, showing the dangers of a poorly fitting lap belt - specifically as a mechanism for causing injuries to the abdomen and lower spinal cord in children.


Please note, that all the information below is taken directly from Easycarseat's own website & Facebook page, videos posted by Easycarseat on YouTube, and private email correspondences between The Car Seat Lady and Kornel Kathi, General Manager for Easycarseat.  

1. The booster failed the required FMVSS213 crash tests with the 3-year-old dummy - yet they are selling this product for kids within the weight range governed by this size dummy
  • FMVSS213 - better known as Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard 213 - governs the crash testing, labeling, and other features of all car seats & boosters sold in the US.  Manufacturers self-certify their products by testing at government approved testing laboratories.  Within 1-2 years of the product hitting the US market, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration "audits" the seat - by performing their own crash tests according to the specifications in FMVSS213 to ensure that the seat complies, as the manufacturer has already stated it has.   
  • From the FMVSS213 testing data that Easycarseat released on their website, Easycarseat failed testing for both head and chest injury criteria with the 3-year-old crash test dummy.  This test was performed by MGA, a US approved testing facility that performs compliance testing for many of the car seats sold in the US.
  • According to Mr. Kathi "The approved weight for the Easycarseat is 15-36 Kgs" when used in the US (which is 33-80 pounds) - so it is being marketed and sold for children for whom it fails testing - despite the website saying that the Easycarseat passed testing "with flying colors."
  • ***Update: On 4/8/11, Easycarseat posted the following on their Facebook page: "Easycarseat 2011 USA FMVSS 213 test results are out: Easycarseat passed the crash tests with flying colours even in the 3 Year old category (from 33 pounds)".  However, nowhere do they release this new testing data.
2.  The lap belt appears to rest on the abdomen of all 4 dummies (3y, 6y, 6y weighted, 10y weighted).  In addition, the 3-year-old submarines under the lap belt during the crash test (as shown in the video below) - bringing the lap belt VERY high up on the abdomen.

  • Our child crash test dummies are NOT INSTRUMENTED in the abdomen.  This means that the dummies are unable to measure forces exerted on the abdomen by a poorly fitting lap belt - whereas we know that on REAL kids poorly fitting lap belts can cause extensive damage and injury to the child's abdomen and spinal cord.  Therefore, our best gauge of how well a booster positions the seat belt is to LOOK at how the lap belt rests before, during, and after the crash test - and to make sure it goes nowhere near the abdomen.
  • On none of the dummies is the lap belt parallel to the ground as it should optimally be in order to rest on the child's strong hip bones.  Rather, it rests flat across the lower abdomen on all the dummies.  The images below were taken directly from the FMVSS213 crash testing the company released (full document available here or here).

3.  We do not see any mention of testing of the Easycarseat in the deflated state.

4.  There does not seem to be consistency in the air distribution under the child in the crash - as evidenced by the 3 year old submarining and the weighted 10 year old ending up at a full 90 degree angle to the direction of the crash forces.
  • This movement of the dummies suggests to me that the air under the dummy shifts irregularly during the crash and turns the dummy's body - i.e. there is not consistency in the air under the child.  In a real vehicle I would be concerned that the child's head would strike the door frame/window if the body turned like the weighted 10 year old did.  
  • I am waiting to hear back from Mr. Kathi regarding what Easycarseat has done to balance the air pressure, so that it doesn't all shift to the opposite side under the weight of the child?
5.  The information given on the website and from Mr. Kathi, General Manager for Easycarseat, is INCONSISTENT.

  • The instruction manual for the booster - available here - says that for use in the US and the UK it is certified for kids from 15-36kg.
  • In a direct correspondence between myself and Mr. Kathi he reiterated that for use in the US it is certified for 15-36kg.
  • Yet, in one, and only one, location on the website it says it is for use from 52-80 pounds in the US. **Update - as of 4/8/11, the website has been changed and it says that the booster is for kids 33-80 pounds in the US.  

What has The Car Seat Lady done in response to our concerns about the Easycarseat? (after all, we have a responsibility to make sure kids are riding as safely as possible!)
  • We immediately contacted the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration to make them aware of this product and our concerns.  They are now aware of this product and will further pursue the issue with the manufacturer.
  • We contacted the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety who is now aware of this product and will hopefully be able to include it in their Fall 2011 assessment of booster seats by best/good/poor belt fit. 
But what about the Bubble Bum Booster?  It's also inflatable. Is it safe?
  • Bubble Bum allowed The Car Seat Lady to view the official FMVSS213 testing results of the Bubble Bum; and it passed the testing.  Not only that, but it has been tested in every configuration both inflated AND deflated - and passes all crash tests, even when deflated. The Bubble Bum is tested to both the latest European (ECE 44.04) & American (FMVSS 213) standards - and passes ALL of them.  
  • Bubble Bum's FMVSS213 testing was done by MGA and included pre and post test pictures of the dummies - and I could see that the lap belt started low and stayed low on the tops of the dummy's thighs - just as is shown with the 10-year old pictured above in the Bubble Bum (showing good belt fit).

  • The Bubble Bum is more than just an air chamber.  There is memory foam inside the air chamber which allows for an even distribution of air under the child's body.  Under the fabric cover there is a structural support system made of seat belt webbing (see picture).  The lap belt guides are made of metal and are sewn directly to this seat belt webbing support system - NOT to the air chamber (which decreases the chance of the seat belt puncturing the booster in a crash). 
  • Unlike on the Easycarseat where the air release valve is within easy reach of the child, the valve on the Bubble Bum is out of reach of the child.  
  • When deflated, the Easycarseat is completely flat - the Bubble Bum is NOT (it is almost an inch deep) due to the memory foam inside the air chamber - which, along with the lap belt guides being separate from the air chamber, allow it to provide good belt fit even in the worst case scenario of it being deflated.
Since the Easycarseat website was very difficult to navigate, I have downloaded and compiled the following Easycarseat documents into this Google Documents folder so you can review them for yourself more easily.  They are also available from the company's website (see all the links below)
Instruction Manual for US/UK:

FMVSS213 testing
- This had been available at this link - - but after we posted this blogpost, the company removed the FMVSS213 test results.  You can still view them here:

ECE44.04 testing (includes TUV & Dekra)

DISCLAIMERThe Car Seat Lady is NOT AFFILIATED with Easycarseat OR Bubble Bum in any way.  We have not received any monetary compensation or gifts from either company.  We did receive one Bubble Bum booster free of charge from the manufacturer for our expert review.  We are NOT paid in any way for our comments on this blog post or any other for that matter.  Therefore, you can trust that we are giving you our expert, unbiased opinion.

Thursday, March 31, 2011

Rebecca Black - of "Friday" fame - meet Tyler Presnell, he might just save your life!

Watched this video - Black Friday - that's become an internet sensation and all I could think was how awful it was that 68 million people have watched a video glorifying behavior that gets kids killed. Rebecca Black and 4 other teenagers pile into a convertible and sing and dance about partying it up - NO ONE is wearing a seat belt.  Car crashes are the NUMBER ONE cause of death for teenagers in the US - but it doesn't have to be this way.  Seat belts, extended supervised driving time, driving without peers in the car, and graduated licenses save lives!

Tyler Presnell knows all too well what its like to be the cool kid riding in the back seat of a friend's car without a seat belt; his story doesn't have a happy ending.  When the 16-year-old driver of the car Tyler was riding tried to show off for his friends, the car ended up wrapped around a telephone pole.  Tyler suffered a traumatic brain injury and injured every organ in his abdomen as shards of his pelvic bone ripped through his abdomen. Twenty one surgeries and 11 years later, Tyler has relearned how to walk, how to feed himself, how to talk, and how to remember - but he will never be the same. 
Listen to him tell his story.
Listen and learn!


Monday, March 21, 2011

American Academy of Pediatrics Says Rear-facing Until Age 2 in New Policy Statement Published 3/21/11

Alisa Baer, MD - Pediatrician & The Car Seat Lady - explains the 5 key points in the new recommendations so you have the information you need to keep your child as safe as possible.

For more information, go to to the AAP's 2011 Car Seat Guide for Families

Friday, March 4, 2011

What does a 36 pound almost-3-year-old look like rear-facing???

LOVE IT!!! Mom of the 2 kids above sent me this email: 
"My son is so happy with his new seat, and actually seems to be more comfortable in it. He fell asleep almost immediately after we left you (and he's never been a kid who loves to sleep in the car)." 
FYI - Her son is 2y10m & 36lbs - and had been forward facing for a few months until she decided to get him a new seat with a 40lb rear-facing weight limit.  He is now riding in a Safety 1st Complete Air 65 (rear-facing to 40 pounds), and his younger sister is riding in his old Britax Marathon (rear-facing to 35 pounds).  

Curious about what kind of leg room he has?  The answer is not a lot.  He sits with his legs in "frog legged position" - but the important part is that HE IS COMFORTABLE (let me tell you, he has the verbal skills to tell you about everything else, he would definitely mention if he wasn't comfortable).  

Can you spot the MISUSE in this NomieBaby picture?

Unbelievable!! I got an email yesterday from with this picture. Why would I recommend a product that not only violates the instructions & warranty of basically every car seat (including the Britax Roundabout this child is riding in) - but is designed by someone who can't even strap her own daughter (child in pic) properly into a seat? Worst part: I spoke extensively with the designer last year about my concerns re: pics with mistakes.

1. Using an aftermarket product that goes under the child & around the straps
2. The crotch buckle is unbuckled
3. Shoulder straps are coming from below the child's shoulders (forward facing they should be coming at or above the child's shoulders)
4. The chest clip should be higher - at arm pit level.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

LATCH 201 - The Basics


Rear-facing infant seats usually come with a base.

LOWER ANCHOR STRAP: permanently attached to the base
TETHER STRAP: no infant seats currently sold in the US use a tether.
NOTE: If you want to use the carrier without the base, this is possible with all currently sold models EXCEPT The First Years Via (which requires the use of the base at all times).  With the infant seats that allow you to use the carrier without the base, you will have to use the vehicle's seat belt to secure the carrier as the lower anchor strap is permanently attached to the base (and shouldn't be removed).

Sometimes rear-facing infant seats come by themselves (i.e. without a base).  The information below is for carriers that come without a base (for carriers that come with a base, see above info)

LOWER ANCHOR STRAP: permanently attached to the carrier
TETHER STRAP: no infant seats currently sold in the US use a tether


Rear-Facing Convertible

LOWER ANCHOR STRAP: permanently attached to the seat.
Most convertible seats have one long lower anchor strap with a connector on either end - while others (some Britax & Recaro for example) have 2 separate lower anchor straps each with a connector on the end.  Some convertible seats have a separate lower anchor strap for rear-facing & forward facing (ex. Graco My Ride 65).

**Always make sure the lower anchor strap is routed/positioned in the proper place for the direction the seat is facing - nearly all seats require you to make some change in the lower anchor strap when the seat goes from rear-facing to forward-facing.

Forward-Facing Convertible
TETHER STRAP: Most convertible seats do not use the tether rear-facing.  ALL convertible seats use the tether forward-facing.  
***Remember: While the lower anchors are used INSTEAD of the vehicle's safety belt to secure the child safety seat to the vehicle, tethers are used IN ADDITION to the lower anchors OR the vehicle's safety belt to secure a forward-facing (and some rear-facing) child safety seat to the vehicle.

These convertible seats can use the tether rear-facing:

  • Britax: all convertible car seats allow Swedish or Australian method
  • Combi Coccoro: will soon retroactively allow tethering (further info to come)
  • Snug Seat Hippo: changed 5/30/07 to retroactively allow Swedish or Australian method
  • Sunshine Kids Radian (all models) - tether using Swedish method



Combination seat in
5 point harness
car seat mode
LOWER ANCHOR STRAP: permanently attached to the seat.

TETHER STRAP: All combination seats come with a tether.  While the tether is technically optional on most combination seats (but should always be used whenever possible as it decreases how far the child's head moves forward by up to 8 inches), there are a few that require the tether.  For example, the Safety 1st Go Hybrid requires the tether at all times, while the Britax Frontier 85 requires it for children weighing more than 65 pounds who are using the 5 point harness.

***Remember: While the lower anchors are used INSTEAD of the vehicle's safety belt to secure the child safety seat to the vehicle, tethers are used IN ADDITION to the lower anchors OR the vehicle's safety belt to secure a forward-facing (and some rear-facing) child safety seat to the vehicle.


Combination seat with 
harness removed 
for Booster mode
Most combination seats do NOT allow the use of the lower anchor OR tether strap to secure the seat to the vehicle while the seat is being used in the booster mode (i.e. the child is using the vehicle's shoulder/lap belt across them). 

Current exceptions:

              • Britax Frontier & Frontier 85: allow use of lower anchors & tether
              • Evenflo - all combination seats (retroactively) allow use of lower anchors & tether
              • Recaro Pro Sport - recommends use of tether (does not allow lower anchors)
              • Safety 1st Go Hybrid (formerly Safeguard Go) - allows use of lower anchors

High Back or Backless

Belt Positioning Booster 
LOWER ANCHOR STRAP:  Most booster seats do not come with lower anchor connectors.  Those that do, sometimes have rigid lower anchor connectors instead of a flexible lower anchor strap as is found on nearly every other type of car seat.  See close-up drawing at left of a rigid lower anchor connector. 

TETHER STRAP: None of the high-back boosters (that weren't part of a combination seat) currently come with a tether strap.

Belt Positioning Booster
with rigid lower anchors
The following booster seats allow the use of the lower anchors and/or tether:

Monday, February 28, 2011

LATCH 101: The Basics You Need to Know

LATCH stands for Lower Anchors and Tethers for CHildren. It's also known as ISOFIX in Europe and LUAS (Lower Universal Anchorage System) in Canada.

LATCH is a way to secure a child safety seat to the vehicle using straps from the child safety seat that connect to special metal anchors in the vehicle.


  • Lower anchors are a pair of metal “u-shaped” bars hidden in the vehicle’s seat crack.
  • A tether anchor is a metal anchor (often a ring or bar) found behind the vehicle seat.
**FYI: Vehicles since model year 2003 must have the lower anchors in at least TWO seating positions and tether anchors in at least THREE positions. This means that, in most vehicles, the side seats have lower anchors AND tether anchors, while the center seat has a tether anchor but NO lower anchors.

This diagram above shows the varied locations you may find the tether anchor in the vehicle.  ALWAYS check the vehicle owner's manual to make sure that what you have found is indeed the tether anchor (and not a cargo hook, which can not withstand the force of a crash).  See bottom of this post for pictures of different locations for tether anchors in a wide variety of vehicles.

  • All child safety seats that use the vehicle’s lower anchors have a lower anchor strap with a connector on the end. Some child safety seats have two separate lower anchor straps, each with a connector on one end. These connectors attach to the vehicle’s lower anchors.  A few booster seats have a rigid lower anchor connector, instead of having the connector on a flexible strap.
  • Rear-facing car seats typically just use the lower anchors (a few can also use the top tether).  Forward-facing car seats use the lower anchors AND top tether.  
Forward-facing car seat
using Lower Anchor Strap

Forward-facing car seat
with Rigid Lower LATCH

  • All forward-facing child safety seats that use the vehicle's lower LATCH anchors will come with not only a lower anchor strap, but also a tether strap. The tether strap comes from the top of the child's car seat and has a hook on the end that connects to the tether anchor in the vehicle.
Forward-facing car seat
Using tether in a minivan
Forward-facing car seat
Using tether in a sedan
Vehicle Seat BeltGlasses   as   Lower Anchors : Contact Lenses  
- Just an analogy for those yearning to relive their high-school SAT studying days.  But in all seriousness, this analogy explains why you never use the lower anchors & the vehicle seat belt at the same time to install the car seat.   Just like if you were to wear contacts & glasses at the same time you would see worse rather than better, so too the performance of the car seat may be NEGATIVELY affected by using both the lower anchors and the vehicle's seat belt at the same time.
- Note: Lower anchors are used INSTEAD of the vehicle's safety belt to secure the child safety seat to the vehicle. Tethers are used IN ADDITION to the lower anchors OR the vehicle's safety belt to secure a forward-facing (and some rear-facing) child safety seat to the vehicle.

Tether on bottom of vehicle seat
Tether on bottom of vehicle seat -
but covered up by carpet flap
Tether anchor in the roof
Tether anchor on back of vehicle seat
SUV/WagonTether anchors in floor of cargo area
(very inconvenient when trying to load packages)

5 door Hatchback
Tether Anchor on back of vehicle seat
Tether Anchor is on the shelf below the rear windshield

Tether Anchor is on the shelf below the rear windshield

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

LATCH Tip: Right Way Up or Upside Down - Attaching the Lower Anchor Connector Right

Did you know that there is a right way and a wrong way to attach the lower anchor connectors?  If attached the wrong way, the anchor may not hold securely in a crash - so make sure you get it right!


Close-up of the Fine Print:

Look at the direction of the metal tooth - you want the metal tooth to start from the top and come downwards for a secure hold - rather than coming from the bottom upwards.  The metal tooth in this pictures is almost all the way down (I'm holding the release button outside the frame of the picture so that the tooth isn't all the way down).

Also, attaching the lower anchor connector upside down usually means that you are twisting the lower anchor strap (which isn't good) which can lead to the strap getting twisted in the locking mechanism for the strap - which once the strap is twisted in the locking mechanism it is typically impossible to get the strap looser or tighter.
Lower Anchor Connector attached upside down - with strap twisting in the process

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

(most) Coats & Car Seats are NOT a safe combo (here are ways to keep kids WARM & SAFE)

Does winter time in your car ever look like this?  

These girls are NOT safe in their car seats due to bulky winter coats
Have you ever struggled to just get the harness buckled when your child is wearing a coat?  Notice how the girl on the left doesn't even have the buckle between her legs fastened as there wasn't enough room in the straps with the bulky coat on.  The problem is that in a crash the plastic chest clip is designed to open under certain circumstances - so if you haven't fastened the straps between the child's legs, they will come out of the seat!  Do you notice the straps sliding off the child's shoulders with their coats on?  Do you notice that when you take the coats off the straps seem very, very loose?

Would you wear a bulky coat under your parachute harness?
Wondering what parachutes have to do with car seats??? The whole idea of the car seat is to act as your child's parachute in a crash.  30mph feels the same to the body as if you jumped from a 3rd story window and landed on the pavement.  You would be absolutely crazy to jump - but if you had to, you'd rather land with a parachute as you would land as slowly and gently as possible.  If your child's car seat is secured tightly to the vehicle, and the straps are snug to the child's body, the child will come to the slowest, gentlest stop possible in a crash.  If, however, the car seat is loose to the vehicle and/or the straps are loose to the child's body, the child still needs to come to a stop - but it becomes a much more jolting stop, like landing on your feet, and that is what hurts and causes injuries.  

If you were about to jump out of a plane, you wouldn't wear anything fluffy between you and your parachute harness as you would be afraid that the harness wouldn't hold you tight.  The same thing goes for your child - you don't want to put anything bulky like coats, snowsuits, buntings, Bundle Mes, body supports, strap covers, etc between the back of the car seat and the harness straps as the straps won't be snug to the child's actual body.  

Here's how to keep your kids WARM & SAFE in the car in winter

Step 1: Dress the child in thin, tight layers under their winter coat - dress them as if it was 50-60 degree weather.  For example, under their winter coat they should wear an undershirt, long sleeve shirt, and sweater.  

Step 2: Take the child to the car with their coat unzipped - have them take off their coat when they get to the car.  Quickly buckle the child and get the straps snug withOUT the coat on (remember to pull firmly up on the shoulder straps to get all the slack out of the legs/stomach area, then pull firmly on the tail to tighten the straps).

Step 3: Have them stick out their arms and put the coat on backwards.  The best part about this is not only are they safer, but they also won't overheat as the car gets warmer as they can pull their coat off when they get hot.

Some coats are SAFE for the car seat
Some coats are thin enough That they don't interfere with the snugness of the straps - and are therefore safe for the car seat.  Want to know if your child's coat is safe for the car?  Buckle your child into their car seat with their coat on & get the straps snug.  Take the child out of the car seat, remove their coat, and rebuckle the child into the straps.  Firmly pull upwards on the shoulder straps - you should notice no slack coming up, and only enough room for one finger to fit between the child's collar bone and the strap - if the straps are looser than this, then the coat is not safe for the car.

These down jackets are perfect for under the car seat as they are VERY thin and compressible (from the picture you can't tell how thin they really are).  Stock up now for next winter (they're on sale now!)...
- Patagonia Down Sweater Jacket
- REI Down Jacket

Car Seat Ponchos: A great ALTERNATIVE to coats
1-year-old wearing Car Seat Poncho
There are also several varieties of thick fleece ponchos that the child can wear in the car seat - all of these become like a warm, hooded blanket that the child can't kick off.  They are typically for kids from 6 months to 3 years of age.  They are also nice in that when you take the child out of the car seat you can snuggle them in the poncho blanket so they aren't cold when going through the supermarket parking lot or to your front door,  or wherever you may be running errands.  Note: there are other ponchos being sold that have drawstrings at the hood/neck area - we do NOT recommend these as drawstrings pose a risk of strangulation.