Children’s car safety seats: Are you using yours correctly?


baby in a car seat

Are you using your child’s car safety seat properly? A 2016 report by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) suggests you might not be. More than half the car seats looked at in the report were improperly installed or incorrectly used. Similar studies conducted independently showed even higher levels of misuse. While some of the errors found in these studies were small, others were large enough to negate the safety of the seat entirely. As Miriam Manary, senior engineering research associate at the University of Michigan Transportation Research Institute, told the New York Times:

“… somewhere around 35 percent of it is gross misuse where they’re not going to get any protection from that system — things like not securing the child restraint into the vehicle or not harnessing the child in the child restraint system.”

Motor vehicle accidents are the number one cause of death in children, and forty percent of children killed in automobile crashes were unrestrained. Correctly using a child’s car safety seat can reduce the risk of fatal injury by more than half. The child safety group Safe Kids Worldwide offers free children’s car seat checks. Look at their website to see if they’re sponsoring an event near you. If there are no safety checks nearby, Safe Kids Worldwide also offers a list of technicians qualified to check that your children’s car safety seat is properly installed and that you’re using it right.

Here are some pointers to help make sure your children are getting the safest ride out of their car seats:

Don’t forget the top tether. All children’s car seats have at least three anchor straps. Some have five. It’s easy to forget that important top strap.

Check the expiration date. Like all good things, children’s car seats won’t last forever. Wear and tear, exposure to heat and UV light — all these things take their toll. Most convertible car seats are good for 10 years; most infant seats for 6. Check your warranty card to see when yours expires.

Been in a wreck? Throw it out. A damaged car seat is an ineffective car seat. If you’ve been in a serious accident while your child’s car seat was in the car with you, maybe toss it and get a new one.

And finally, some good news: more expensive doesn’t always mean better. All children’s car safety seats have to meet the same federal standards. They’re tested by the NHTSA to make sure that all models on the market conform to those guidelines. Some models may be more convenient, more versatile, better looking, or have a better cup holder – but they’re still providing the same baseline safety features.

So keep these tips in mind, do your homework, and before you take a spin, strap ‘em in!

The life of a tire


This video clip contains all the essentials for tire safety in just over a minute and a half — take a look. .

Tirewise is your one-stop shop when it comes to tire safety and consumer protection. (It’s a part of safercar.gov). Here are just a few of the useful resources.

How to learn the age of your tires – Regardless of tire wear, the rubber can break down over time. Some vehicle and tire manufacturers recommend replacing tires that are six to 10 years old, regardless of treadwear. Check out the diagram on this page to see how to date your tires.

Tire Rating Lookup – You can search for recalls, investigations and complaints on tires — and also for child safety seats, for auto equipment, or for your entire car.

Check for tire recalls – NHTSA has rated more than 2,400 lines of tires, including most used on passenger cars, minivans, SUVs and light pickup trucks. Consumers can select a tire brand from the drop-down menu below.

One other important safety notice: Make sure your auto insurance is current and provides adequate coverage. If you live in New England, find one of our member local agents near you.

Does your car make the grade? Check out IIHC 2014 Top Safety Picks


How good do you feel about your car’s safety? You can check out the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety’s lists of the 2014 Top Safety Picks to see if your car makes the grade. If you are in the market for a new car, it’s particularly handy information. Twenty-two vehicles earned the highest safety awards thanks to a high level of protection in crashes and the availability of front crash prevention technology to avoid many collisions in the first place. Another 17 makes earned awards by meeting the crashworthiness criteria alone.

In addition to the listings, the linked release (above) offers some good information on how these awards were determined – but to really get a sense of their testing and rigorous standards, check out this short video that shows some of the testing in action.

Are you ready for robot cars?


The race is on. Automakers are competing to bring self-driving or “autonomous” cars to the market by 2020. Are robot cars feasible? While it’s not likely that the highways will look like a scene from the Jetsons anytime soon, we can expect to see more and more “semi-autonomous” auto features being widely available starting in 2015 and beyond – features such as collision avoidance systems, lane departure warnings, advanced cruise control that can navigate curves and parking assist systems. But New Englanders and other people living in snowy climates take note: In a report on what it’s like to ride in Google’s driverless car, Joann Muller talks about some of the self-driven car limitations:

“…the driverless car can’t handle heavy rain and can’t drive on snow-covered roads “because the appearance and shape of the world changes. It can’t figure out where to go or what to do.” And engineers are still working on how to program the car to handle “rare events” like encountering a stalled vehicle over the crest of a hill or identifying debris, like a tire carcass, in the middle of the road.”

Are drivers ready for the auto technological innovations to come? Check out this fun infographic from Chubb’s Risk Conversation blog:

Driverless Cars

 

Car shoppers: Watch out for flood-damaged cars


News reports from various states are warning car-buying consumers to be alert for vehicles that were damaged by Superstorm Sandy. In states directly affected by the flood, authorities are issuing alerts and consumer guidance – New Jersey state officials remind us that Sandy-flooded cars can be resold, but they must be properly been titled as such.
Car-buying consumers in other states should also be wary because damaged cars are often professionally refurbished and shipped to other parts of the country to be sold where consumers are unlikely to be on alert. We’ve noted before that even when cars “clean up nice,” they may well have electrical or engine damage that will surface later – this is particularly true of salt-water damage.
The New Jersey Motor Vehicle Commission offers the following sensible steps that used car buyers should take before making a purchase:

  • Check the vehicle’s title history and be wary if the vehicle has been titled multiple times over a short time period.
  • Obtain a vehicle history report from the dealer, or get one yourself from a reputable source; this will let you know if the car has been damaged in the past.
  • Look for an insurance company’s name on the title history, and contact the company for vehicle information.

The NJ MVC also offers ways to spot a flood damage car:

  • A musty or moldy smell or the strong scent of a deodorizer all over the car
  • Rust on metal parts where water would not normally touch
  • Water-stained upholstery or water damage on the door panels or seat belts
  • Mildew, silt or debris in areas around the engine compartment, under the carpeting or in the trunk.

For more tips on avoiding flood-damaged cars, see our prior Consumer alert: don’t buy a flood-damaged car which we issued after the 2010 floods in Rhode Island.