CONSUMER ALERT – CHILD SAFETY SEAT PERFORMANCES ARE UNDER PAR

“In a government crash-test video, the infant car seat flies off its base, smashing the baby dummy – still strapped into the carrier – upside down and face-first into the back of the driver’s seat.” (Patricia Callahan, Chicago Tribune).

A deep look into the data of several tests carried out by the National Highway Traffic Safety Commission (NHTSA) has revealed an industry-wide problem regarding the testing of safety for child car seats.

In a crash test study by the NHTSA, a total of 31 child safety seats flew off their bases or exceeded injury limits in a series of frontal crashes. These results however, were never released to the public. Why? Because the performance of these child safety seats was not the primary concern of the testers; they were only concerned with the general safety of the vehicles being crashed. It took a Chicago Tribune investigation to unearth these troubling results, and bring it to the public attention.

What this newspaper investigation has revealed a possible lack of rigor in the safety testing for child safety seats. Perhaps more important however, is the revelation that parents simply are not given any information they need in order to make an educated purchase. “You can compare the safety ratings for cars, but not for the safety of car seats. Parents often have no way which seat fits best in their car and whether conventional wisdom is accurate.” (Patricia Callahan, Chicago Tribune)

Joan Claybrook, president emeritus of the advocacy group Public Citizen and former administrator in the NHTSA was straightforward in her response, stating, “What you’ve uncovered totally reveals the flaws in the current safety standard and also NHTSA’s negligence in not reporting this to the public.” Fortunately however, this recent uproar has come to the attention of the newly installed Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood, who in a written statement said he ordered a, “complete top to bottom review of child safety seat regulations,” while also directing the staff of the NHTSA to make results “more available” to the public.

At this point, it appears that the Federal Government has gotten the message, responding that it will toughen safety standards and increase public accessibility to results when testing child safety seats. Unfortunately, the corporate world has not gotten the message. Among the failing restraint systems in the federal test was a product called the “SafeSeat,” by the Graco Corporation. In a response to the Tribunes investigation, Graco released a written statement explaining that the failed seat was, “anomalous, not a repeatable event,” and that the tests were, “worthless for the purposes of evaluating and comparing infant restraint system performance.”

It appears that there is a lot left to accomplish in order to get the government to properly regulate the safety of infant restraint systems, and to get corporations to live up to those standards. In the mean time however, the best weapon a parent can have while purchasing a child safety seat is knowledge of important safety factors and an ability to compare across brands. If you are currently searching for a child safety seat for your family, please visit KeepKidsHealthy’s website on child safety seats.

If your family has been victim to a failing child safety seat, please do not hesitate to contact an attorney immediately.

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