NHTSA Tool Makes It Easier for Parents to Find Right Car Seat

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Buying the correct child-safety seat for a child can be an overwhelming task for parents, especially if it's for their first child. For Child Passenger Safety Week, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has just launched its Car Seat Finder Tool that makes selecting the correct car-seat style a lot easier.

Related: Child Passenger Safety Week: Protect That Precious Cargo

Using the tool is easy. Parents enter their child's birthdate, weight and height into the Car Seat Finder, and it tells parents what kind of car seat is best for their child. It also offers a listing of compatible car seats with their height and weight recommendations as well as NHTSA's ease-of-use ratings.

I tested the tool by entering info about my 7-year-old, who still needs to ride in a booster seat. Remember, kids should stay in booster seats until they're 4 feet 9 inches tall and at least 80 pounds. The tool correctly told me that my son should be in a booster and gave me a list of boosters to consider.

Anything that demystifies car-seat shopping is a major win. If you already have a car seat for your child, but aren't sure it's installed correctly or is the right fit for your little one, visit a car-seat inspection station during National Car Seat Check Saturday where certified car-seat technicians will be happy to help.

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By Jennifer Newman | September 19, 2014 | Comments (0)

2015 Volkswagen Jetta Earns IIHS' Top Safety Pick Plus

2015VolkswagenJettaCrashTest

After missing the mark for the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety's coveted crashworthiness awards in the 2014 model year, the 2015 Volkswagen Jetta has earned the institute's most prestigious designation, Top Safety Pick Plus. That's thanks to structural improvements and the addition of a frontal crash prevention system to the sedan, which IIHS classifies as a "midsize, moderately priced car."

Related: 2015 Volkswagen Jetta: First Look

"Although the car didn't get a full redesign, the A-pillars and door sills were strengthened for the 2015 model year," IIHS said in a statement. "As a result, the Jetta's small overlap rating improved to good, compared with the marginal rating of earlier models."

By Matt Schmitz | September 18, 2014 | Comments (1)

Recall Alert: 2011-2014 Chevrolet Express, GMC Savana

2014ChevroletExpressRecall

Vehicles Affected: More than 3,000 GM full-size cargo vans from the 2011-14 model years that run on compressed natural gas, including Chevrolet Express vans manufactured between Sept. 10, 2010, and April 28, 2014, and GMC Savana CNG vans manufactured between May 23, 2011, and April 21, 2014

The Problem: The vans may leak natural gas from the CNG high-pressure regulator, which in the presence of an ignition source increases the risk of a fire or an explosion.

The Fix: GM will notify owners, and dealers will replace the high-pressure regulator for free. The automaker has not yet announced a notification schedule.

What Owners Should Do: Owners can call Chevrolet at 800-222-1020 or GMC at 800-462-8782 for more info. They can also call the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration's vehicle-safety hotline at 888-327-4236 or go to www.safercar.gov.

Need to Find a Dealer for Service? Go to Cars.com Service & Repair to find your local dealer.

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By Matt Schmitz | September 18, 2014 | Comments (0)

National Seat Check Saturday Is This Weekend

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If the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention were to tell you that heart disease is the leading cause of death in men, you may or may not adopt the Mayo Clinic's recommended preventive measures such as quitting smoking, getting more exercise and eating a heart-healthy diet. But if the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration were to tell you that car crashes were the leading cause of death for children age 1 to 13, you'd almost certainly take every reasonable precaution to protect those who depend on you to keep them safe. Well, you'll have just such an opportunity this weekend during National Car Seat Check Saturday.

Related: Child Passenger Safety Week: Protect That Precious Cargo

The event, which wraps up Child Passenger Safety Week, invites parents, grandparents and caretakers to have their child-safety seats inspected by certified car-seat technicians. This weekend, schools, hospitals, fire and police stations, retail stores, banks, car dealerships, civic buildings and other locations will be offering car-seat inspections on National Car Seat Check Saturday. You can find a participating location by going to NHTSA's Child Car Seat Inspection Station Locator.

By Matt Schmitz | September 18, 2014 | Comments (0)

Diono Car Seats Allow Parents to Fit Three in the Backseat

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When baby makes three kids in the backseat, it's often time for parents to start looking for a larger car. However, there are some who instead look for a way to fit three child-safety seats across their current car's bench seat. Car-seat manufacturer Diono offers two lineups of convertible/booster seats that not only fit three across some cars, but these seats also fit kids who weigh as little as 5 pounds to as much as 120 pounds.

Related: Which Cars Fit Three Car Seats?

The Diono Radian lineup — the R100, R120 and RXT — is the company's flagship car-seat line. The well-known Radians are just 17 inches wide, which makes it easier for parents to fit three car seats across a backseat.

Introduced earlier this summer, the Diono Olympia, Rainier and Pacifica car seats improve on the Radian lineup's design, though at 18 inches, they're slightly wider than their predecessors.

By Jennifer Newman | September 17, 2014 | Comments (0)

Improved 2015 Kia Soul Earns IIHS' Top Safety Pick, Forte Fails

2015KiaSoulCrashTest

The 2015 Kia Soul hatchback has rejoined the ranks of vehicles deemed worthy of the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety's Top Safety Pick. Meanwhile, the 2015 Forte fell short again after losing its status the previous model year, despite improvements.

Related: Not All Small Cars Shine in Latest IIHS Crash Tests

The Soul redeemed itself this time around by earning a good rating in the IIHS' stringent small overlap front crash test, which simulates what happens when a car strikes an object such as a tree or utility pole. IIHS rates cars on a scale of poor, marginal, acceptable and good. The Soul scored poorly on the small overlap test for the 2013 model year, and wasn't even tested for 2014 because Kia said things had not improved. The hatchback came back strong for 2015, however, raising its rating on the test from poor to good (acceptable would have earned it Top Safety Pick status). As is necessary for the safety designation, the Soul also earned good scores in the institute's other four crashworthiness evaluations: moderate overlap front, side, roof strength, and head restraints and seats.

IIHS said the Soul improved by strengthening the front end and occupant compartment for 2015. "The driver space was maintained reasonably well with a small amount of intrusion," IIHS said in a statement. "The dummy's movement was well controlled, and its head hit the frontal airbag, which stayed in position during the crash."

By Matt Schmitz | September 17, 2014 | Comments (0)

Too Many Parents Skimp on Booster Seat Use

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After years of wrangling with heavy child-safety seats, Latch systems and five-point harnesses, booster seats seem so "easy." At their most basic, these car seats raise up a child so a seat belt is positioned correctly to protect them in a crash. However, even this easy car seat is being used incorrectly — or not used at all — by parents.

Related: 19 New Booster Seats Earn IIHS Best Bet Title

A new study from Safe Kids Worldwide found that 9 out of 10 parents move their child out of the booster seat too soon. Based on a national online survey of 1,000 parents of kids between ages 4 and 10, the study also found that 70 percent of parents didn't know when a child should be moved out of a booster seat.

The study, which was partially funded by a General Motors Foundation grant and released during Child Passenger Safety Week, also found that 1 in 5 parents with children in carpools "bend the rules" when they're the driver, allowing kids to ride in the car without their seat belts or without their car seats. One in 4 parent respondents said they don't make their child buckle up on every ride.

By Jennifer Newman | September 16, 2014 | Comments (0)

New House Report Blasts NHTSA

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On the heels of yesterday's New York Times investigation, a report from the House Energy and Commerce Committee blasted the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration for an alleged series of critical mistakes leading up to GM's recall of some 2.2 million small cars in the U.S. over faulty ignitions.

Related: GM Ignition-Switch Recall: What Owners Need To Know

The 44-page report claims NHTSA had information to identify the defects, which have been linked to more than a dozen deaths, as early as 2007. The report also concludes that the agency failed to link three investigations on crashes involving airbags that didn't deploy in the Chevrolet Cobalt and didn't understand "vehicle systems and functions implemented in response to the agency's own standards," including the link between airbags and vehicle power.

NHTSA Deputy Administrator David Friedman defended the agency to The Detroit News on Monday, saying he'd met with a dozen automakers to facilitate further discussions on how vehicle systems interact. NHTSA's actions have also prompted some 1,300 recalls over the past decade.

Click here to read more on the report from The Detroit News.

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By Kelsey Mays | September 16, 2014 | Comments (0)

How Rude! Discourteous Drivers Ranked by State

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While it's unlikely that any one state has the market cornered on inconsiderate drivers, a recent study concludes that some places are more obnoxious than others. Insure.com in July surveyed 2,000 licensed drivers from across the U.S., half women and half men, and ranked all 50 states and the District of Columbia according to their relative rudeness. And among them all, the Gem State shone brightest.

Related: Poll: What's the Worst Driving Behavior

Idaho ranked as the No. 1 rudest state in the study. Survey respondents' attitude toward this potato-producing state is rooted in its alleged bumper crump of both speedy spuds and slow-rolling couch potatoes. "The roadways of Idaho present a dichotomy of drivers: Those who are moving so slowly that they're judged to be rude, and the aggressive drivers who speed around them and flip them off," Insure.com said in a statement.

The five driving behaviors that bothered survey participants the most, followed by the percentage reporting so, were:

By Matt Schmitz | September 16, 2014 | Comments (7)

Recall Alert: 2008-2014 Toyota FJ Cruiser, Tacoma

2014ToyotaFJCruiserRecall

Vehicles Affected: About 20,000 model-year 2008-14 Toyota FJ Cruiser SUVs and Tacoma pickup trucks equipped with accessory wheels and tires installed by Toyota or dealers before the vehicles' first sale.

The Problem: The vehicles may incorrectly list the spare tire size or inflation info on the tire placard. If the incorrect pressure is provided, tire failure may occur while it's being driven on, increasing the risk of a crash.

The Fix: Toyota will begin notifying owners this month, and the automaker will provide, either by mail to owners or to dealers, overlay stickers for placement over the incorrect info on the placard.

What Owners Should Do: Owners can call Toyota at 800-331-4331, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration's vehicle-safety hotline at 888-327-4236 or go to www.safercar.gov for more info.

Need to Find a Dealer for Service? Go to Cars.com Service & Repair to find your local dealer.

More Recalls

By Matt Schmitz | September 15, 2014 | Comments (0)

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