I’d have to have my head planted firmly in the sand if my initial skepticism about self-driving vehicles hasn’t budged over time. In a few short years, what has gone from bold predictions by certain tech giants has developed into mainstream acceptance. Target dates for various rollouts of autonomous vehicles seem right around the corner, rather than in some sci-fi future. In September, the DOT released safety guidelines for autonomous vehicle performance, including a model for state policies.
As readers know, I am not a doctor. Occasionally, though, as CPSTs we must consider certain medical conditions that influence the safety or children as vehicle passengers. Fortunately, there’s no need for CPSTs to hold a medical degree; simply follow the advice of doctors regarding the relevant symptoms of a diagnosis and how they might influence a child’s safety (either in a crash or during normal riding). To guide us, we are fortunate to have peer-reviewed scientific studies and policy statements from the medical community.
As technician candidates, we learn that children on large school buses are protected by compartmentalization, but when the bus is small, seat belts are required to protect occupants properly. We’re also taught that the cutoff between small and large buses is a 10,000-pound gross vehicle weight rating (GVWR).
During a busy summer of travel, I wrote several articles for this issue of SRN while waiting in airports and flying on airplanes. Like most CPSTs, I travel with an awareness of the families around me and always perk up when I see a CR. Alas, contrary to safety recommendations, I find that most CRs that make it as far as the gate are gate-checked rather than used on board. It’s understandable that most parents aren’t fully aware of best practice on airplanes; safety messages can be unclear and confusing in a system that allows children under age 2 to ride on a caregiver’s lap. (And, let’s face it, those safety messages need to be very compelling to overcome parents’ understandable desire to save money by not buying a plane ticket for these infants.)
I was recently asked whether our SRN Fact Sheets were updated to reflect the recent changes to FMVSS 213. While I assured the customer that we had reviewed all sheets and made any edits needed, I also noted that the changes were minor. Our fact sheets are meant to provide caregivers with easy-to-read information about best practice, so technical details about subjects like regulations are not appropriate and would in fact detract from the key safety messages.
However, this hints at broader questions that others might share: What do caregivers need to know about the recent update to LATCH weight limits and CR labeling? And, exactly how should our parent information be changed so it’s current?
This issue of SRN celebrates the amendments to FMVSS 213 that went into full effect on February 27, 2014, expanding the standard’s scope to include CRs for children up to 80 pounds (formerly 65 pounds). Although the purpose of this expansion, when first directed by Congress over 10 years ago, was to bring most boosters under FMVSS 213, the effect is to also ensure that today’s wide array of CRs with very high-weight harnesses will be tested according to the standard’s requirements.
Recent Developments Likely to Change CPS Landscape
(Scroll down for “New Rule Will Expand FMVSS 213 Coverage to 80 Pounds, Clarify LA Weights” and “NHTSA Revises Final Rule, But Concedes Little to Petition.)”
This issue of SRN covers some important developments that will have far-ranging effects in the CPS field for years to come.
First, a year after the AAP and NHTSA released updated recommendations for how children should ride, a survey from AAA confirms what we’ve sensed: there has been significant awareness and acceptance of these new guidelines by the public. The 2011 Safe Kids study of CPS use indicated that parents were already trending toward keeping kids in each stage longer, and the AAA survey shows that the efforts of the past year have further contributed to improvement.
At Safe Ride News Publications, our team has been busy researching, editing, and compiling the 2013 LATCH Manual. We are eager for its January publication, which will include many updates and new information.
As part of this process, I’ve spent much of the last few weeks reading CR owner’s manuals (a process that has been aided immeasurably by the SBS USA Child Restraint Manufacturer’s Instructions DVD). As always, this is fascinating reading and never ceases to turn up new insights about specific models.
A powerful book about injury prevention, a topic very near to my heart, has inspired me to speak out during this political season when we are hearing a lot of rhetoric about too much regulation, the “nanny state,” individual rights to not buckle up or wear a motorcycle helmet, or even not supporting public funding of essential things such as repair of highway bridges.
While We Were Sleeping: Success Stories in Injury and Violence Prevention, by David Hemenway of the Harvard Injury Control Research Center, presents a highly readable account of many successful efforts to protect people by preventing unintentional injuries and violence. It is his “personal ode to public health,” particularly injury prevention, which has fascinated him since the 1960s, when he worked for Ralph Nader and Consumers Union. He wants to explain the importance of public health because “most people do not recognize, or do not readily recall, when they personally have benefitted from a public health intervention.”
Once again, in the heat of August, NHTSA aimed an icy blast at efforts to require lap-shoulder belts on all school buses. A petition submitted by Safe Ride News Publications and others in January, 2010 (SRN January/February 2010), after a fatal school bus crash in Connecticut, was denied by NHTSA on August 25, 2011. The agency said, “We have not found a safety problem supporting a federal requirement for lap-shoulder belts on large school buses, which are already safe.”