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DM: Choosing an Infant Car Seat

April 15, 2010
Before the end of the semester, I have to put up several entries on my Decision Modeling professor’s class blog that relate to the topic of the class: instances of the use of (or the need for the use of) decision modeling that we see in the world around us, in our own lives, or in the news.  Here is the first of my entries:

 

My wife and I had decided some time ago on a car seat for an impending “bundle of joy” due to arrive in about month’s time: the Graco Snugride 35 “Racer”. 

Graco Snugride 35 "Racer"

Graco Snugride 35 "Racer"

In retrospect, reaching this decision was the kind that can benefit from some values-based decision analysis.  There are a variety of options to choose from, and the right decision is not obvious.  In addition, the consequences of making a poor decision are potentially very material: there is a risk to the life and health of our baby, which is not a risk we can take.

Our criteria on this decision were pretty simple.  We were concerned with Safety first, the comfort of the baby, and ease of use.  Price as an issue, but it was not the dominating decision criteria.  On the measures of safety, comfort, and ease of use, we understood the Graco Snugride line of products to be the superior choice.  While a little more expensive than other brands, we felt that the value on the earlier criteria made the snugride the better option.  We decided next to get either the “32” or the “35” models, instead of the regular models, which can hold older and heavier babies.  Our reasoning on this decision was that we could make the car seat last longer before we had to buy a larger “toddler” seat.  The last criterion was appearance.  On this criterion, our primary interest was matching the red stroller we had already received as a gift (which is able to hold the car seat using a special adapter).  In looking at the various designs of size 32 and 35 models, we determined that the “Racer” design matched our stroller closest. 

This weekend, though, we were forced to revisit this decision. 

Graco Snugride "Lotus"

Graco Snugride "Lotus"

 

Our goal this weekend was to install the infant car seat.  My wife will be considered “full term” this week, and we wanted to be ready.  However, when we went out to the car to start the installation process, we found that we couldn’t install the car seat in the middle seat, as we had assumed we could – it would have to go on one of the sides, either behind the driver or behind the passenger, because of the way these car seats have to be installed.  The problem with that, however, was that the car seat wouldn’t fit in either spot unless either the driver’s seat or the passenger’s seat were pushed all the way forward. 

We realized quickly that it would be exceedingly difficult for either of us to drive with the driver’s seat pushed all the way forward.  The alternative, installing the car seat behind the passenger, gave us pause.  Our understanding was that passenger-side impacts are among the most common types of accidents.  This put us back in square-one, again: considering our first priority of safety.  We knew that the regular Snugride was several inches smaller than the “35” model Snugride, and it was our belief that we could fit this smaller model in either position 

So, in reconsidering our earlier decision, we now had to decide how much this new risk weighed against our other decision criteria.  The right choice in this case wasn’t immediately obvious.  However, what helped us make our decision was considering the possibility of a second child in the future, and what would happen if we had one child in a toddler seat and another child in a baby seat: would they both fit?  Because cost was still an issue, we realized we would not want to purchase a new, smaller baby seat at that time.  Because of that, we decided that it would be best to return our larger baby seat and purchase a new, smaller car seat. 

Reconsidering our earlier criteria, once we had satisfied our safety need, we stopped to think about our other criteria.  The ease-of-use would be the same from one Snugride model to another, so that would not be an issue.  We weren’t sure whether the baby’s comfort would be an issue on this move; because we were looking at our options online, we couldn’t compare the quality of the materials, or gauge whether one material would be more or less uncomfortable for the baby.  That left color, which lead us to consider the “Lotus” design.  The only problem with this model was that it was not available at a local store.  However, that minor inconvenience was not high on our decision criteria.  In the end, we did decide to order the “Lotus” model and return the “Racer”.

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