May 10, 2011

Global Automakers Lobbying For Pool Noodles

The industry association. What a racket. Earn millions of dollars a year saying things about politics your corporate members are too embarrassed to have come out of their own PR flacks' mouths.

And so we come to "Global Automakers" comments to NHTSA about the coming plan to provide consumers with a fit standard that shows which of the dozens of models of infant carriers, car seats, and booster seats fit in which seating positions in which hundreds of models of cars.

It is obviously a complex matrix of a problem, and the Automakers are correct to point out that it will involve much testing and oversight and information management and consumer education. And that the government requirement that car models added to the fit list must have nine car seat options [cheap, medium, and expensive X rear-facing, forward-facing, and booster] from different manufacturers does seem like a lot. Especially when they'd like nothing better than to sign up an exclusive deal with one car seat company, and sell officially approved $100 car seats for $500 at the dealership. Like Volvo.

And one could make an argument for that, or even that designing the equipment that ensures the safe transport of infant and child passengers as required by law should be the carmaker's job. But that's not the world we live in.

No, we live in a world where Honda, Suzuki, Hyundai, Isuzu, Kia, Nissan, Subaru--and Aston Martin, Ferrari and Maserati--have hired someone to say that, when defining "a good fit" for car seats,

The use of pool noodles should be permitted, if allowed by the vehicle and CR manufacturer. The Child Passenger Safety manual should also allow the use of pool noodls in these circumstances. The use of such devices has become a common practice and should be recognized by the agency. The agency should recognize this situation by including a note on its website that pool noodles or similar devices may be needed to assure a proper fit for some CRs.
Automakers also want NHTSA to keep this car seat fit data far away from the agency's annual safety ratings for new car models, maybe even on an entirely different website. lf that doesn't fly, then at least "provide clear explanation that the fit information has no relevance to CRS's crashworthiness performance."

I'd give up and walk away, but I have a feeling that's exactly what the Global Automakers wants.

Comments on Child Restraint Fit Information Program [ via dt reader dt


Er, I must not be as "hep" as you kids are, because I have no idea what they are talking about. Pool noodles? Is that some kind of drug humor?

Pool noodles are cylinders of closed-cell foam, maybe 4 feet long and 3 inches diameter, intended for use as pool toys/boffer fights but often used to wedge a not-quite-fitting car seat into a usable (though not approved) position in a car.

Also, apparently, known as "car seat safety noodles." Specially designed never to squish or shift. Comply with all flammability standards.

I now recall hearing something, not about noodles, but rolled-up towels to get rear-facing seats at the right angle. We elected to purchase a seat which, you know, FIT OUR CAR.

And they apparently make a high-density closed-cell "car seat leveler" already. Is there a whole economy of shady car seat fit products? We're through the looking glass here, people!

...Which you apparently know all about.

Edit function for comments? Or should I have less caffeine in the afternoon when K1 woke up at 5:25 AM?

As ridiculous as the word "pool noodle" sounds in an official release, I'm pretty sure I've seen various car seat installation manuals refer to rolled up towels and the like. With that in mind, the reference to pool noodles seems reasonable, if ridiculous.
My only problem with this proposal is how confusing it will get. Already, carseat requirements are complex and beyond the comprehension or interest of many parents.
That said, this is a confusing issue. There are simply too combinations of vehicles, carseats and seating positions to apply a simple verdict of "safe" on any carseat. Immediately you wonder "how safe?" and you're quickly overwhelmed with an answer that depends on which seat, how big is the kid, which way is it facing, which seat is it in, etc. I can't even imagine how may cars they'd need to crash to get the data required to answer these questions. Most parents would like to ask "how safe?" and be directed to the Britax with all the soft padding and sleep well knowing they're protecting their kid.

"reasonable, if ridiculous" sums it up perfectly.

the complexity of this fit rating system are right on; and it'll change every year with every model of car and car seat. It'll amount to de facto, model-specific car seat recommendations, even if, as the mfrs point out, the fit standard is separate from the car seat's crash test performance.

Whether lawyers and insurance companies will maintain this distinction, I have no idea.

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