• Mar 3, 2009
The Chicago Tribune is shaking a rattle at the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. Its investigation has found 31 cases of infant seats exceeding injury limits or disconnecting from their bases during federal vehicle frontal impact crash tests. The NHTSA slams countless cars into barriers each year, like the 2008 Dodge Caravan in the gallery below. In addition to the sensor-laden crash dummies, some of the vehicles are also fitted with infant or child seats. According to the Tribune, the unreported child seat failures in those tests – crashes conducted only to test vehicle safety, not the safety of the child seats – has uncovered a serious flaw in infant/child seat testing.

In the United States today, infant seats are only tested on a sled. Before being sold, the seats must demonstrate the ability to survive a "simulated" head-on crash at 30 mph. On the other hand, the NHTSA crashes actual vehicles into a barrier at 35 mph (although it is only 5 mph faster, the impact is significantly greater). Sled tests are effective in some studies, but they fail to test the variables found among different vehicle interiors and the unique seat designs that change from manufacturer to manufacturer.

Responding to the Tribune report, Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood said in a written statement Friday that he ordered a "complete top to bottom review of child safety seat regulations." He will also make changes to make the crash-test results "more available" to consumers. Government crash test regulations have held automakers to the fire, and the result has been much safer vehicles for adults. Now it's time to bring infant/child seat manufacturers to the same flame and improve small occupant safety, as well.


[Source: Freep, image by NHTSA]


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  • 25 Comments
      • 5 Years Ago
      http://www.ted.com/index.php/talks/steven_levitt_on_child_carseats.html

      Pretty interesting perspective on child carseat safety. I know there are a few holes in his data, but its still pretty far from what one would expect.
      • 5 Years Ago
      I just can't see this actually happening - how my Lexus RX350s are they going to have to crash just to show how it does with the wide variety of car seats available? It would be better to adjust the sled test on the baby seats to simulate the key differences in the majority of cars and then give the seat a set of results.
      • 5 Years Ago
      Is it suggesting that they test all possible combinations of baby seats to cars?

      So to test one baby seat, you have to crash it in a variety of cars to rate its performance?

      Is that economically feasible?
        siriusorion27
        • 5 Years Ago
        does it matter?
        • 5 Years Ago
        Yeah.....basically, that's how I read it also. Technically, if you take this to the extreme, cars will have to be designed to cause minium injury to a passenger, in a car seat, anywhere the seat can be placed....right? That might be taking this too far, but that's what the scope of this testing sounds like.

        • 5 Years Ago
        That's what I read as well....
        • 5 Years Ago
        I agree with Michael. You simply can't test ALL car seats in all crash test vehicles without doing multiple runs on every make/model, which is economically unfeasible.

        Increase the sled test to 35mph. You may also want to have different types of sled configurations -- if not already in place. For example, a sled to mimic a sedan, a minivan, bench seats, bucket seats, etc... And add some front seats to the sled while you're at it.
        • 5 Years Ago
        I don't think econics should be our biggest worry here, besides banks and big corp are throwing our money away. This would help to keep our kids safe. I believe that is the most important objective here.
        • 5 Years Ago
        It seems the most logical (and cost-effective) approach is to modify the sled with "doors" and "front seats" to simulate the "typical" vehicle interior. Instead of testing at 30 mph, the speed should be bumped to 35 mph to match NHTSA velocities.

        - Mike
      first36
      • 5 Years Ago
      First of all NHTSA does NOT certify car seats before they go to market, the vehicle and car seat manufactures self-certify their products, per NHTSA performance standards. Products are sold on the basis of the manufactures testing and assurances. NHTSA does test products the have been reported by the public or manufacture to have potential problems. If there is a problem, a recall is sent out (this is why it is essential to fill out the registration card)

      There are federal laws governing the use and manufacturing of car seats, all manufactures selling seats in the U.S. must comply to these standards.

      The above article is irresponsible. And it is causing undue panic (see Sue's reply). Car seat manufactures are responsible people, and they put a lot of research and testing into each product before it comes to market. I suggest you go to http://www.nhtsa.dot.gov/ and look under Child safety seats for more "real" information

      cliff corsom
      • 5 Years Ago
      you are coorrect that there may be only cosmetic differences between the different styles.

      However one of the major factors in car seats is that the majority of them are installed impropperly by the user.

      there are also the issues with how many different ways they can be installed as well as the different configurations of seats possible in a vehicle.

      as an example my brother has car seats installed in all the vehicles he and his wife drives (3 different vehicles) and the connection points for the vehicles are not the same. In 2 of the cars they are identical since they are both GM models with standard (non-spilt) rear seats. In his ford vehicle the seat is installed differently do to the split rear seat.

      I would be great if we could test each item 100% but then we would also be seeing higher overall costs for the car seats.
      first36
      • 5 Years Ago
      this is an excellent article called Putting the Latest Car Seat Testing Revelations in Perspective. It says a lot and makes some excellent points

      http://www.saferidenews.com/srndnn/
      • 5 Years Ago
      Given that everyone else is throwing their hands up in despair crying "Impossible! We could never cover the permutations", I suggest that every child is carried by their mother, wedged between her ugly fat belly and the steering wheel, so that liquid refreshments are on hand and the person on the other end of the cellphone call can hear the screams when "it" is crushed by the airbag and the aforementioned ugly fat belly.
      • 5 Years Ago
      This is a poorly-written article. I have read it twice and still don't understand what the Tribune's beef is.
      • 5 Years Ago
      why dont we just all drive these and call it a day?

      http://www.armored-trucks.com/images/Project22.jpg
        • 5 Years Ago
        Duh.... Doesnt have a connection for my iPod....
      • 5 Years Ago
      I think it's déjà vu all over again.
      vheironimus
      • 5 Years Ago
      It is amazing to me that almost everyone commenting finds the cost of more testing too much. Why is it in the American society adults are the only important people? Babies and children are not valued so if they happen to be killed it seems people think that you can always have a new one, kind of like a dog. Oh wait a minute people pay more attention to their dogs.
      • 5 Years Ago
      I think in the least, they could use a different car seat from a unique manufacturer for each test crash and record those results. Why not record the results from the crash tests since you are doing them anyways. But I agree that it's not logical to crash a car for every seat.
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