In the past couple of years, the introduction of such LA adjusters as Evenflo’s EasyClick and Graco’s EZ Tight is an encouraging sign that NHTSA’s requirements for LA attachment weight limits have not squelched CR manufacturers’ interest in innovating to improve LATCH ease of use. Now that five years have passed since the regulation went into effect, it is a fitting time to reflect on how the regulation has affected CR types, in general.
All CPSTs have been trained in how to use a belt-shortening clip (BSC), the heavy-duty device that holds webbing so that a CR can be installed using a lap belt with an ELR retractor. However, few CPSTs have used one outside of certification training because, of course, vehicles with belts that require this device are now old—and, even back in the 1980s and ‘90s, such belt systems were not particularly common.
Still, it is good for CPSTs to know how to identify situations that require a belt-shortening clip and how to help a parent use one, if needed. The situation might be rare, but if a CPST encounters a child who is riding in a vehicle so old as to need a BSC, then the vehicle is also lacking other modern safety features. In such a vehicle, tight installation is even more critical.
All vehicle models with belts that require a BSC for CRs were made prior to September 1995, the date that the lockability requirement went into effect. In those older cars, a BSC is needed when a seat belt has a sewn-on (nonsliding) latchplate and an emergency-locking retractor on the lap portion of the belt that cannot be switched to automatic locking mode. Seat belts that require a BSC for CR installation are often lap-only belts, but some are lap-shoulder belts (in which case, the retractor with only ELR mode is the one that spools the lap portion of the belt).
Using a particular technique, the user threads a BSC onto webbing to hold a loop of slack, leaving the unlooped segment of webbing—when entirely pulled out of the retractor spool—at the proper length to tightly install the CR. This skill is taught during certification training, and a demonstration video at www.cpsboard.org provides a review.
As CPSTs are taught during certification training, a BSC is not a regular locking clip. To hold webbing in a crash, a BSC must be a bit larger and stronger than a regular locking clip, so a regular locking clip should never be used as a substitute. While CPSTs don’t need to have as many BSCs in their kits as regular locking clips, they should keep one or two on hand or, at least, know where to acquire one. Technicians may not realize it, but the LATCH Manual always contains information on BSCs and their part numbers. (In the new 2019 edition, this information is on page 14 as part of coverage of situations in which LATCH can’t be used. For the past several editions, the listing of manufacturers that supply BSCs for those who need them includes:
- Ford: Part number F03Z-5461248-A
- GM: Part number 94844571
- Toyota: Part number 73119-22010
Use these part numbers for ordering BSCs, as well as verifying that a clip you have is actually a BSC (and not a regular locking clip). The number appears on packaging and is often stamped onto the BSC.
While it is always ideal for add-on parts to be of the same make as the vehicle, a BSC from a Ford, GM, or Toyota brand can be used in a vehicle from a different manufacturer, if needed. However, GM and Toyota have indicated that their supply of BSCs is almost depleted, and therefore most dealers may not be able to supply them. Ford, however, does have some inventory available through two third-party vendors, and for the 2019 LATCH Manual, Ford asked that SRN list the websites for these vendors among the Ford brand bullets (page B-71). Through these vendors, the clips are essentially free ($0.01), but shipping and taxes apply:
To find a BSC on either of these sites, be sure to search the Ford part number given above (rather than entering just a product description) in order to ensure acquiring the correct part.
As the use of BSCs in CPS has become increasingly uncommon, the emphasis on the BSC skill in the certification curriculum has shrunk as well. With a curriculum revision expected sometime in 2019, it remains to be seen how CPS training will handle this topic in the future.
Certain aspects of vehicle manuals differentiate them from CR manuals. For instance, vehicle manuals must cover topics ranging far beyond CPS, and CPS-related topics appear in multiple sections of a vehicle manual. Therefore, when reading vehicle manuals—or instructing others to read them—it helps to understand the following: Read More from “Tips for Reading Vehicle Manuals”
In 2014, the University of Birmingham (United Kingdom) studied how germ types and levels in cars compared to those in people’s homes. While they found plenty of germs in people’s vehicles, it was in car seats that the results really stood out. Researchers found that, on average, every square centimeter of a car seat contained at least 100 bacteria and fungi—twice as many as on a toilet seat.
Naturally, this report was widely circulated in the media that year, and people were understandably grossed out. It is certainly a reminder for CPSTs to stock their tool kit with hand sanitizer and use it routinely while working in cars.
As you know, there have been communications and on-going technical reviews regarding the validity of the 2007 study comparing the injury risk between rear- and forward-facing car seats for children less than 2 years of age in the United States (Henary et al, 2007). Some of these communications may have caused uncertainty regarding child passenger safety and educational messages given to caregivers.
It is important to note that all the studies in question demonstrate the value and effectiveness that car seats play in keeping children safe while traveling.
ISBs have been an available option in the outboard seating position of some Ford and Lincoln vehicles for the past five years. Over that time, the number of Ford/Lincoln models with this option has grown (see current list, at bottom of page) and now includes both two- and three-row vehicles.
Nissan/Infiniti is recalling 3,177,645 cars in the U.S. due to continuing problems with the vehicles’ Occupant Protection Classification (OPC) software, which determines whether the front passenger air bag should deploy based on whether an occupant is present and that occupant’s size.
Although it may seem odd now, many in the CPS community were wary of switchable retractors when they first became available in the late 1990s. After relying on locking clips (pictured left) for so many years, some installations just seemed tighter using them.
I remember being scolded by our certification course instructor during hands-on practice for using a locking clip in a situation that could have been handled using the vehicle’s switchable belt. I explained that I’d tried to use the switchable belt, but the installation was even tighter using the tried-and-true locking-clip approach. But the instructor was unimpressed with my argument and taught me an important lesson: When picking between an installation approach that improves tightness only marginally and an approach that is vastly easier for the caregiver to replicate, one should choose the latter because it empowers the caregiver.
In October, a study was published that predicted that 42 percent of the time, vehicles and CRs are somehow incompatible. The study, “Investigation of Child Restraint System Compatibility in the Vehicle Seat Environment,” by Ohio State College of Medicine’s Injury Biomechanics Research Center, used measurements of 59 current CRs and 61 late model vehicles to evaluate over 3,599 possible CR/vehicle combinations and predict likely incompatibilities. To validate the results, researchers conducted physical installations of 34 of the scenarios.
A new study of 267 newborn infants who were discharged from Oregon Health and Science University Hospital between November 2013 and May 2014 shows that almost all (93 percent) of the parents made significant errors in CR use or installation.