Car seats present tough choices for parents

Volvo has created a new inflatable car seat prototype, while another major car seat maker announces a recall. When will car seat shopping get easier for parents?

By , Correspondent

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    A "family" of crash test dummies, shown at Dorel Juvenile Group in Columbus, Ind., allows technicians to study car crash impact data for various age ranges. Photo taken Thursday, Jan. 30.
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Car seats have been known to be one of the most overthought purchases of parenthood. 

From car seat recalls – of which there have been three in recent months – to automakers such as Volvo introducing an inflatable car seat, this decision might still be fraught with indecision for some time to come.

New parents have to decide what chair to buy (bucket carrier with anchored base or convertible seat anchored in car?), when to buy and install (hopefully before the first ride with baby), when to upgrade or turn their child from rear- to front-facing (two years, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics), and when to recycle (five years or so, though advice on this varies).

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According to reports, Volvo has created a prototype for a rear-facing inflatable car seat that operates a lot like an inflatable mattress you might pull out for house guests. It inflates and deflates with one button, and packs away in a backpack when not in use. 

Volvo, by creating what I will call the “Ikea Aerobed Car Lounger,” is essentially trying to shorten the checklist of annoyances parents cite about their car seats, creating something that could be easy to carry, easy to install, and easy to use. 

While the idea of that kind of freedom is exciting, the trimming down of the car seat doesn’t mean it will make it a bestseller.

In simplifying the car seat concept, it could cut a few too many things out of the decision-making process for parents who are bombarded with advice on how to buy car seats from the birth of their child until that child has a driver’s license.

A forward-facing inflatable car seat is already on the market, the Easy Car Seat, which advertises on its site that it complies with US and EU car seat safety standards.

If Volvo’s inflatable car seat comes to market, will parents be willing to suspend all of the images of hard-sided seat fortresses that have been drilled into their heads by law enforcement, firemen, pediatricians, child safety experts, and their own friends and family? 

Assuming the seat performs up to top safety standards, if it operates with the ease of a camp chair, parents might think it too easy to be safe.

The news of this new car-seat prototype comes as a major car seat manufacturer, Baby Trend, announced a recall of more than 16,000 car seats earlier this week, due to buckle failure, according to the International Business Times

This recall follows news of recalls from two other major car seat makers, Graco (which recalled more than 3 million seats in February) and Evenflo (which recalled approximately 1.3 million seats last week), also for buckle and harness issues.

Parents interested in finding out more details about these recalls can contact the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration Vehicle Safety Hotline at 1-888-327-4236 (TTY 1-800-424-9153), or go to www.safercar.gov.

If the car seat purchasing gets too out of hand, parents can always choose to stick with biking. Good news is that Swedish company Hovding, has created an inflatable bike helmet that inflates on impact, so the Swedes seem to have you covered with inflatable safety no matter what mode of transportation you choose.

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