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NHTSA Announces Top to Bottom Review of Current Child Safety Seat Standards

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration says it is planning a complete review of existing child safety restraint standards. The announcement, reports the Chicago Tribune, comes in the wake of the newspaper’s findings that existing safety standards may be flawed.
The Tribune says that it found, buried in thousands of NHTSA reports, results from tests used to rate the car safety of 2008 model vehicles. What was disturbing, the newspaper reported, is that out of 66 infant seats used in these frontal collision tests, nearly 50% of the safety restraints either separated from the vehicle or exceeded injury limits.
These findings were never issued to the public. Joan Claybrook, the president emeritus of Public Citizen and a former NHTSA administrator, says the NHTSA behaved negligently when it failed to notify consumers about these results.
Usually the strength and safety of child safety restraints are evaluated with tests using sled benches traveling at about 30 mph. However, simulated tests involving real motor vehicles driving into walls at about 35mph may be more in line with what actually could happen on the road, reports the Tribune.
Some of the test findings were disturbing enough that they spurred child safety seat makers into action. For instance, when used in tests involving 3,015 pound barriers being crashed into the sides of real cars, the Evenflo Discovery seats kept falling off their bases. The company eventually recalled 1,000,000 child safety seats following these poor test findings. One safety seat, the Combi Centre infant seat, kept falling off its base in frontal crash tests. Last year, Combi recalled these seats.
These findings raise the question of how accurate current testing standards are for child safety seats and if they aren’t accurate, then how much information do parents really have when trying to determine which seat works best in what car.
Meantime, federal regulators are trying to figure out how to improve their sled bench tests for child safety seats. US Transportation Secretary Ray Lahood says that the government will work harder to make crash-test results more accessible to the public. Some child car safety seat makers, however, are questioning the accuracy of the tests and their findings.
Child Car Safety Seat Recalls
In 2007, 7,000 babies were injured in motor vehicle crashes, while 63 others were killed. All of the accident victims were using child safety restraints at the time of the deadly motor vehicle accidents. Recent child safety seats that have been recalled include 5,500 Recaro Signo car seats, approximately 32,000 Peg Perego Primo Viaggio infant car restraints, and over 30,000 Britax Frontier combination car seats.
There are instances when the life of an infant or a young child might have been saved if he or she had been seated in a child safety restraint that wasn’t defectively designed or did not malfunction. A defective child safety seat can be the cause of catastrophic injuries to a child’s brain, head, or spine.
NHTSA Statement on Review of Federal Standards for Child Safety Seats,NHTSA, March 2, 2009
Car seat tests reveal ‘flaws’, Chicago Tribune, March 1, 2009
Related Web Resources:
Child Passenger Safety, NHTSA
Recalls, CPSC.gov

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