Tuesday, January 09, 2007

Most Child Car Seats Fail New Crash Tests

New tests done by ConsumerReports.org, the website of the Consumers Union of United States, show that nine out of twelve car seats for babies, toddlers, and young children performed very poorly. The crash tests were done at 35 mph frontal and 38 mph side crashes, in addition to the mandatory federal government 30 mph or 48.3 km/h frontal crash for cars. Only two were recommended in the end.

These two that passed all new tests are:
The others tested resulted in the products being twisted violently or lifted completely off their bases. The tests also showed that car seats sold in Europe performed better than those sold in the U.S. Car seats with the LATCH (Lower Anchors and Tethers for Children) system, a mandatory feature, performed worse than those using just vehicle safety belts.

The seats were fitted with a 30 pound test dummy, which was covered with impact sensors to gauge the amount of injury caused to the children passengers. In the frontal crash test, seven seats separated from their bases or caused serious injuries. In the standard 30 mph test, all passed except Evenflo Discovery, which ConsumerReports.org urged a market recall of the model. This model was also involved in a NHTSA (National Highway Traffic Safety Administration) investigation 3 years ago but did not pursue the matter further.

Eight models failed the 38 mph side impact test.

These car seats failed all the new tests conducted by ConsumerReports.org in late 2006:
The Consumers Union found that car seats, with or without LATCH, fail in crash protection if they are not properly fitted into the car and secured snugly. LATCH seems to work better if their bases were attached to floorboard anchor points. The common and worrying trend of parents is that they are not well informed on how to install the seat using LATCH, or choose to use the safety belt instead.

At the end of the ConsumerReports.org report, it recommends the following to keep your children safe when in the car:
  • Choose your car seat carefully, preferably according to the models it recommends and avoid those it reported to have failed its tests.
  • Use the car safety belt to secure the child car seat, even if the LATCH system is used.
  • Register your car seat so that the manufacturer can contact you if your model has problems or is being recalled.
Here are some more tips that I've learnt from browsing through the web, especially from NHTSA's website:
  • The statistically safest location of the child car seat is at the rear center seat.
  • Ensure that the safety belts and harness of the car seat are not frayed and twisted and should be snug when your child is seated.
  • Place the car seat in the rear-facing position if your child is less than 12 months old. If your child is more than 12 months old AND weighs more than 20 pounds or 9.1 kilograms.
  • Child car seats must not be placed in a seat where there is an impact airbag from the front or side.
  • Children who exceed the car seat manufacturers' weight limit or whose top of the head is higher than the top of the seat should use a booster seat instead. This is typically between the ages of four and six.
  • When a child reaches six years of age, a backless booster seat should be used.
Safety1st Comfort Rider car seat
Gabriel is using the Safety1st Comfort Ride convertible car seat, released as one of the first LATCH-equipped models. Bought in early 2005, it is quite stable and easy to maintain. He sits well and can fall asleep in it. Hopefully, it can protect him in any situation, in addition to God's blessing on him.

Update: 19 January 2007

CR has withdrawn their recent safety report pending further side-impact collision tests of the involved seats. This comes after CR received concerns raised by the NHTSA on the methods the tests were conducted in. The speed of the side-impact collisions may be inaccurate.

ConsumerReports.org - Consumer Reports withdraws infant car seat report

Related links:

MSNBC - In crashes, infant car seats 'failed disastrously'

ConsumerReports.org - Safety alert: What if this were your child?

ConsumerReports.org - A seat sold abroad outperforms U.S. models

NHTSA - Child Passenger Safety Program

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