Teens’ Vehicles Elevate Their Relative Risk

Vehicle Choice a More Serious Risk Factor for Teens Than for Other Drivers

Many of the studies on teen drivers, as well as policies and laws aimed at limiting various teen driving privileges, focus on characteristics of the teens themselves that are known to influence their safety in vehicles.  However, the crashworthiness and crash-avoidance features of a vehicle are also important considerations for occupants of any age, and recent research shows that teens, as a group, tend to be at a disadvantage when it comes to benefiting from today’s safety features.

In the past decade or so, several vehicle safety advances have occurred that make newer cars much safer than older ones.  For instance, electronic stability control (ESC)—a highly effective crash mitigation technology—has been standard on all passenger vehicles and light trucks since model year 2012.  Several other automated driving systems, like lane-keeping assist and automatic braking, are now common, as well.  These features, along with structural improvements that help newer vehicles earn higher crash-performance ratings from NHTSA and IIHS, are among the reasons that newer vehicles are significantly safer than older ones.

However, researchers (Metzger, et al) found that certain populations are much less likely to ride in these safer vehicles, including teens, senior citizens, and, unsurprisingly, those from lower-income neighborhoods. For instance, the study showed that teens (and older drivers) were more likely than middle-aged adults to drive older cars that did not have ESC or side and curtain air bags.

Teen drivers from lower-income neighborhoods were at a particular disadvantage.  On average, young drivers from lower-income neighborhoods drove vehicles that were almost twice as old as the vehicles driven by their peers from higher-income neighborhoods. Young drivers from higher-income neighborhoods were 53% more likely than their peers in lower-income neighborhoods to drive cars with side air bags.

Of course, because a vehicle purchase is a major expense, it’s not reasonable to expect all teens to drive brand new vehicles.  However, it is a mistake to assume safety cannot be considered when purchasing a vehicle on a budget—quite the contrary. In fact, CPSTs should counsel both caregivers and teens to weigh safety as a top priority when determining which car a teen will drive.

CPSTs can learn more on this topic by reading posted articles at A Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia website,, provides a wide array of useful resources for caregivers and teens, as well.

However, when it comes to tracking down an affordable vehicle with the most desirable safety features, the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) website has, perhaps, the most helpful resource of all.  IIHS, which crash tests vehicles and assigns them ratings, partners with Consumer Reports to consider price, crash performance, and other safety features when compiling an annual listing of vehicles that are the best overall value for teen drivers.  Several models are listed for each body style category (small/midsize/large cars, SUVs, and minivans), and separate lists indicate Best and Good options.

For those who can afford a new car, the site lists recommended models that might still be available through dealerships (2020 is currently posted). However, if a new car isn’t an option, the webpage also lists used cars—some models from as far back as a decade ago.  Options in the Best category include models that can be purchased for under $10,000; models in the Good category range from about $5,000 to $10,000.  Any budget-conscious caregiver or teen should know about these lists to help them find a car that is both affordable and safe.  Find the lists here.


Metzger, et al. “Vehicle Safety Characteristics in Vulnerable Driver Populations.” Traffic Injury Prevention, online August 27, 2020. DOI: 10.1080/15389588.2020.1805445

Is Your CR Hanging Out Too Much?

Understanding CR Overhang

The newly released version of the National CPS Certification Training curriculum does more than earlier versions to introduce the concept of overhang by including a slide and explanation in the technician guide.  It tells students to ensure that the base (footprint) fits on the vehicle seat by checking the CR owner’s manual to learn about overhang, and it says to use the “80/20 guideline” if instructions don’t give other advice.  It points out that some manufacturers require 100% of the footprint to rest on the vehicle cushion and that some vehicle seats are too shallow for some CRs. Read More from “Is Your CR Hanging Out Too Much?”

Virtual Education: Suddenly It’s All the Rage!

CPSTs are urged to continue conducting education remotely, using these helpful tips

While telephone support has been a tool used by CPSTs for decades to conduct remote education, most techs would agree that in-person education is far more thorough and effective.  However, as the imperative for social distancing nixed all in-person interactions with caregivers this spring, virtual options, which incorporate both audio and video components, emerged as the next best thing.  Almost overnight, individuals and programs across the country began transitioning from offering in-person outreach events, like checkups and classes, to hosting modified versions online. Read More from “Virtual Education: Suddenly It’s All the Rage!”

Refresher Course: Basic Guidelines for Cleaning CRs

Here are some basic CR cleaning guidelines.  Of course, always refer to specific model instructions.  However, these general recommendations can alert caregivers to the fact that, for important safety reasons, rules for cleaning a CR differ from rules for cleaning other items.  These rules must be followed to maintain crashworthiness, even given heightened concerns about cleanliness during the COVID-19 crisis. Read More from “Refresher Course: Basic Guidelines for Cleaning CRs”

New School Bus Resource Defines Best Practice by Child Age

Safe Kids Worldwide recently compiled a best-practice document for CPS on school buses. Entitled Best Practice: Child Passenger Safety Securement Recommendations for Pre-School and School Age Children on School Buses, the document is laid out in a grid fashion. Rows list the child-age groups that signify distinct stages for CPS on school buses (starting with infants), while the columns give best-practice guidance, explanations/citations, and the rationale for distinguishing each child-age category.

Read More from “New School Bus Resource Defines Best Practice by Child Age”

Tip for Euro-routing when a lap-shoulder belt seems too short:

Have you noticed that it’s become more common for RF-only car seat instructions to allow European belt routing (aka, Euro-routing) for baseless installations?   If a car seat model allows this method, but the vehicle belt appears to be too short, try this technique.

  1. Route the lap portion of the belt through the CR belt path guides (across the child’s leg area), but don’t buckle the belt yet.
  2. Wrap the shoulder portion of the belt around the back of the CR (following model-specific instructions, if any, for using a guide on the back of the CR shell).
  3. Buckle the belt, and then complete installation, as instructed, by setting the CR to the proper angle and tightening the belt.

Finding Lap-Shoulder Belts to Be Too Short for Euro-Routing? Try This Tip

FMVSS 213 requires CRs to be tested while installed using a lap-only belt.  Therefore, there is no required U.S. test to measure the effectiveness of installations using Euro-routing, since that technique involves a lap-shoulder belt. However, from experience in Europe and through voluntary testing, many manufacturers recognize the benefits of Euro-routing and choose to offer it as an option on CRs sold in North America.

If a lap-shoulder belt seems to be too short for Euro-routing, try this technique:

  1. Route the lap portion of the belt through the CR belt path guides (across the child’s leg area), but don’t buckle the belt.
  2. Wrap the shoulder portion of the belt around the back of the CR (following model-specific instructions, if any, for using a guide on the back of the CR shell).
  3. Buckle the belt, and then complete installation, as instructed, by setting the CR to the proper angle and tightening the belt.

By buckling the belt after the shoulder belt has been routed (not before), a belt that may seem to be too short for Euro-routing is often ample. This technique is also less likely to tempt the user to tilt the top of CR shell forward to enable shoulder belt placement (which can be awkward or even risky if a baby is seated in the CR).

Calling Out Fakes, Knockoffs, and Imposters—NOW A FREE WEBINAR!

UPDATE:  Due to the cancelation of the Lifesavers Conference, the session mentioned in the following article will be offered instead as a Safe Kids-hosted live webinar:

How to Tell if a Car Seat is Legit—or NOT
April 23, 2:00 EST.
Space is limited! Register today at

One of the many excellent sessions planned for the Lifesavers Conference (March 15–17 in Tampa, Florida) focuses on noncompliant CRs, a very timely topic. Attendees will hear from a CR manufacturer and a CPST-I who has reported non-compliant CRs seen in the field. In addition, a representative of NHTSA will explain various regulatory considerations of these products.

As a member of the Lifesavers planning committee, SRN’s Denise Donaldson has been gathering examples, both online and in person, of the growing number of noncompliant products seen in this country. Readers who encounter unusual products are urged to share this information by emailing a detailed description and photos to

Manufacturers must self-certify CRs, and most products are designed and sold by trustworthy, legitimate companies. However, the public must be vigilant about noncompliant devices, especially ones presented for sale online by vendors who may feel safely concealed from accountability. Sadly, the online marketplace has certainly made it easier for unscrupulous vendors to sell products in the U.S. and Canada that don’t meet applicable regulations.

As this topic has been hot lately, including in mainstream media, many terms have been used to describe problematic devices. SRN deems it time, therefore, to consider terminology a little more closely.

Legitimate CRs Are FMVSS 213-Compliant

First, it’s important to know what it means for a CR to be “213-compliant”—a legitimate CR. A compliant product meets all the performance, structural integrity, and labeling standards of NHTSA’s Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard 213, and it fits the definition of one of the CR types to which the standard applies. Therefore, it must be a product for a child who weighs less than 80 pounds and be a rear-facing CR, forward-facing CR, belt-positioning booster seat, car bed, or harness system. The CR may be an add-on or built-in, and the regulation applies to CRs used in any motor vehicle (including school buses) or aircraft. In state child occupant protection (COP) laws, the use of only FMVSS 213-compliant CRs is specified.  (Note for Canadian readers: Although this article is U.S.-centric, much of the content applies to Canada; replace U.S. terms (like FMVSS 213) with their Canadian counterparts.

Whenever possible, refer to any noncompliant product that poses as or competes with compliant CRs a “device,” rather than a child restraint. That way, the term “child restraint” is reserved for legitimate products that truly meet standards. But, among these non-CR devices, there are different types. SRN suggests CPSTs consider the following categories:


Knockoffs: Devices that are inferior copies of particular 213-compliant CR models. In recent months, SRN has heard about knock-offs of the Doona CR and certain Graco RF-only CRs. The makers of these devices rip off the companies they imitate; even worse, the knockoffs are made of substandard materials that lack the strength and integrity of the real thing, do not meet standards, and are a huge risk to children. Warn caregivers to avoid deals that are too good to be true!

Counterfeits: Devices that appear to be 213-compliant CRs, but do not imitate any particular CR model  Like knockoffs, these devices may make claims that they meet federal regulations. However, they typically have clues to the contrary, such as cheaper-looking parts or missing labels. (Recent examples have been sold online as part of a stroller system.)

Imposters: These devices identify themselves as CRs using the language required by FMVSS 213 (in marketing materials, instructions, and labels). However, they do not meet FMVSS 213’s definition of a CR, so this claim is fraudulent. In addition, imposters often say they meet FMVSS 213 crash standards, but since they don’t qualify as a CR under that standard, these claims are baseless. Some seat belt adjusters are examples of imposters, as are devices with a five-point harness that are installed by wrapping a strap around the vehicle seatback (always a clear no-no in personal vehicles).

Other Confusing Products

Decoys: These devices are like imposters, but the manufacturer steers clear of making fraudulent claims of meeting FMVSS 213.  Nonetheless, promotion of such a product often willfully misleads the public into thinking that it is a legitimate alternative to a CR. For instance, many decoys state a starting weight limit of 80 pounds so as to fall outside the scope of FMVSS 213, yet their packaging and promotional materials show the device in use by much smaller/younger children. Since no rules or laws have been broken, the most that can be done is to educate the public about avoiding these products.

Foreign CRs: These are legitimate CRs that are designed to meet the standards of a foreign country, but not FMVSS 213. People visiting from abroad may use their foreign-made models for short stays (like while on vacation). However, people who plan to live in the U.S. for an extended period of time (for instance, on a work visa) should obtain a 213-compliant model. U.S. citizens should not purchase a foreign model for use in the U.S., and NHTSA should be notified if manufacturers or retailers are found to be offering to ship models that don’t meet U.S. regulations to U.S. addresses.

Stay Up to Date!

The current CR market is especially tricky, with online retailers able to pop up at will (and resurrect themselves elsewhere if called into question).  At the same time, several unusual CR features and designs—many inspired by foreign CRs—are now found in legitimate CRs in the U.S. market. Additionally, the demand for lightweight, portable options has led to the invention of products that manufacturers have carefully tested for safety but that do not strictly meet the FMVSS 213 definition of a CR (for instance, harness-like products that do not utilize a tether or boosters that do not boost). Are these “better mousetraps” by designers who have been thinking outside the box or simply imposters? These are questions regulators may need to address in the coming months.

Readers of SRN can count on coverage of new products—legitimate or otherwise—in this newsletter. Another way to check on a product and/or a CR manufacturer is to see if it’s included on the AAP’s annual product listing of CRs. (Remember, however, that this list is updated annually; while finding a model listed here is a good sign that it is legit, the absence of a model may simply mean it is new to the market, so further research would be necessary.)

In general, CPSTs with concerns about any product are encouraged to follow up. Contact the manufacturer and ask questions. Report lingering concerns to the manufacturer and to NHTSA (click on Report a Problem).

And don’t forget to share with SRN, as well. Hope to see you at the Lifesavers Conference in March!