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Archive for January, 2007

Ma-ma

Last night I saw this new movie, based upon a novel by the great crime and mystery writer P.D. James. I came away moved, disturbed, and somewhat in awe. There was a lot to think about, and strong feeling were stirred and still need to be shaken out. Finally, this movie should be shortlisted for at least a few Oscars (and no, I’m not going to say which ones).

I don’t want to give too much away, and I personally think that many of the reviews I checked after watching Children of Men did just that. Here are a few comments that shouldn’t interfere with appreciating the movie.

P.D. James usually write mysteries and thrillers, and her characterization and dialogue are particularly noteworthy; of course, as a premiere mystery writer she is also good at plot elements, flow and suspense. In Children of Men she has shifted track significantly; the novel is science fiction of the near future, in which all women have become sterile, and the last child was born before 2010. It is “now” 2027, the world has gone to hell, and most people have lost hope for the future. As is usual in these situations, they don’t react well. Theo, played by Clive Owen, is a man who used to be politically active but who has lost all hope. He is then asked by an old friend to try and get someone out of Britain…

I’m not going to give any more details, but I will say that it moved me as strongly as, or more strongly than, movies like Schindler’s List or One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest. It is not to be taken likely, and parts are searing in their intensity; but it is great on more than one level. When I get up the courage, I’m going to see it again.

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Today I noted a safety alert on the Consumer Reports (CR) web-page. I found it interesting partially because one of my friends is heavily involved in child car seat safety, and partially because of my neices and nephews. It refers to infant car seats that face to the rear and have a detachable base. CR performed some product testing on 12 models of these seats, where they went slightly beyond the American national standards in their testing. The bottom line is that most of the models tested failed.

Currently one of the United States safety rating criteria includes a 30 mph collision test for child car seats and infant seats. However, there are two more stringent tests that are required for cars, but not for car seats. These tests are a frontal collision at 35 mph (about 36% more intense) and a side-on collision at 38 mph (60% more intense). I glanced through the Canadian rating standard as set out in the Motor Vehicle Safety Act, and it seems that the 30 mph test is the only one required domestically for Dynamic Testing (i.e. crash-test dummies and accelerometers, etc) except for spotty provincial regulations . In most respects the Canadian dynamic test is effectively identical to the American test, and this was probably driven at least partially to facilitate cross-border sales.

Here are some highlights:

  • 10 of the 12 models failed the enhanced testing. The two models which passed are
    • Baby Trend Flex-Loc and the
    • Graco SnugRide with EPS.
  • 9 models met US federal safety standards, but performed poorly
  • 7 failed the 35 mph frontal collision test
  • 8 failed the 38 mph side-on collision test
  • in the United States, from 2001-2005, about 570 children under 1 year were killed in collisions with about 26% being side-on collisions. Given that the seats are probably less well designed for side-on collisions, this highlights the need for more R&D in that area.
  • In the US there is a federally mandated mounting system for the base called LATCH (I think Canada has the same thing under a different name). It has had problems both in ease of use and in the reliability of different infant seat models using it. CR found that when these seats were attached with the traditional seat-belt and safety strap method, their performance improved significantly. They also found that center seat installations and some European innovations improved performance dramatically.

CR recommends the following:

  • If getting a new infant seat, use one the the two models that passed the tests (other models probably work as well, but who knows). Also, be careful about European seats that meet more stringent safety criteria; CR bought a British seat that did very well, but when bought from the same manufacturer in the U.S., it failed.
  • If you have one of the marginal models, use safety belts instead of LATCH, or buy a better model.
  • Use the rear centre seat installation if you can fasten the seat tightly
  • send in the registration card for the seat, so you can be informed of recalls
  • “Remember that any child seat is better than none at all”

Basically most companies design to the minimum standard, so the standard has to be increased, regardless of the automobile lobbies and the car seat manufacturer’s lobbies. If you’re not convinced, you can take the standards used in Canada and the U.S. and work out some disturbing numbers for forces, accelerations, and projectile velocities as applied to infants. Your kids deserve your care and diligence.

Newfoundland Action Group: Kids in Safe Seats:

  • Newfoundland’s car seat action group. It also has good resource material and links

Nova Scotia Information Site: MomsandDads.ca

  • this provincial government site gives information and resources to parents of young children. Child car safety is one of the four focal points
  • as of January 1, 2007, new legislation regarding child car seats and booster seats have been enacted in Nova Scotia. The booster seat law is now in effect in three provinces, including Ontario and Quebec

Child Seat Safety Law and Standards Globally

American and Canadian Laws and Regulations

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