Infant Car Seat Safety

Written by dad - 3 Comments

Hmmm… This is kind of troubling… As you may or may not know, car seats can’t be sold unless they can withstand a 30 mph front-impact collision. But as it turns out, exceeding the federal standards by even a little bit can be disastrous…. According to a recent study by Consumer Reports, the vast majority of rear-facing infant car seats fail (often catastrophically) in front-impact collisions at 35 mph or side-impact collisions at 38 mph. In fact, of the twelve models that they tested, only two performed well. As for the others:

The car seats twisted violently or flew off their bases, in one case hurling a test dummy 30 feet across the lab.

One seat (the Evenflo Discovery) even failed at the 30 mph threshold mandated by the feds. Yikes!

Interestingly, car seats sold in Europe undergo more more rigorous testing than they do in the United States — and when CR tested a seat from England, it outperformed all others in the test.

What about LATCH, the federally mandated attachment system for child car seats? That should improve things, right? Not so, says Consumer Reports… Most seats actually performed worse with LATCH than with plain old seat belts.

According to Consumer Reports, the reason that they decided to hold infant seats to a higher standard than is required by law is that there’s currently a substantial gap between between the safety standards for cars and car seats. Indeed, the federal New Car Assessment Program awards its ‘star’ ratings based on the same 35 mph front and 38 mph side-impact crashes used by Consumer Reports. If cars are designed to withstand higher impacts, then why shouldn’t the safety devices used in cars be designed similarly?

While things will hopefully change with regard to car seat safety standards, here’s what you can do right now:

– Buy either the Baby Trend Flex-Loc or the Graco SnugRide with EPS (these are the only two that passed).
– If you already own a Chicco KeyFit, Compass I410, Evenflo Embrace, or Peg Perego Primo Viaggio SIP, use them with vehicle safety belts, and not with LATCH (these seats passed with the former, but failed with the latter).
– If you own a different infant seat, consider replacing it.
– Secure your child in the center-rear seat if the car seat can be tightly fastened there.
– Be sure to send in the registration card that comes with all new car seats such that the manufacturer can contact you in the event of a recall.

And of course, remember that any car seat (even one that failed in this test) is better than no car seat at all.

[Source: ConsumerReports.com]

Published on January 11th, 2007 - 3 Comments
Filed under: Child Safety
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Comments (scroll down to add your own):

  1. Yeah, parents have been emailing links to this CR article like crazy, it seems. Good! Something useful for once. Except, deciding what is safest has become confusing.

    A few months ago someone brought to my attention this video about a car child seat tragedy: Importance of a 5-Point Harness Carseat. Its message: For a toddler or preschooler, a 5-point harness carseat with LATCH has an excellent chance of preventing such a tragedy.

    I was ready to buy the Britax Regent for my 4 year old (about to outgrow his toddler carseat), but there was a run on these seats. Most places had them on backorder.

    So I’ve waited and now CR comes out with this. It makes me question the reliability of LATCH and the rigor of government testing standards. Further, they only did the new research (so far) on infant seats.

    I have a lot of faith in CR and they’ve never tested the Britax Regent. So now what?

    I think I’ve found a compromise position and will probably get the Britax Marathon. My son won’t be in it as long, but at least CR tested it.

    Comment by Baba — Jan 11th 2007 @ 9:55 pm
  2. Yeah, it’s hard to say… As you’ve pointed out, this only applies to rear-facing infant seats that snap into a base. Our three oldest grew up in an Evenflo. Not sure of the model that we had, but the Evenflo Discovery that was included in this test didn’t even survive the federally mandated 30 mph test. Pretty scary.

    For what it’s worth, we’ve never used the LATCH system. It’s all old-fashioned seat belts for us. I get them in absolutely rock solid, and it’s hard to imagine the one-piece seats having similar problems as long as they’re securely attached.

    Comment by dad — Jan 11th 2007 @ 10:06 pm
  3. Many thanks for this tip – showing us the only two that passed.

    Comment by Jack — Jun 21st 2007 @ 10:29 pm

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