Guest Author - Paula Petrie
* On Jan. 18 Consumer Reports withdrew its report on infant car seats pending further tests of the performance of those seats in side-impact collisions. A new report will be published with any necessary revisions as soon as possible after the new tests are complete. The discrepancy was about information received from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration concerning the speed at which the side-impact tests were conducted. I will keep this post updated.
The original report included the following information:
Cars and child car seats can’t be sold unless they can withstand a 30-mph frontal crash.
Although most cars are also tested in a 35-mph frontal crash and in a 38-mph side crash, our children’s car seats are not. When Consumer Reports raised the car speed by 5 mph, still a low speed for an actual crash, the results to baby car seats were shocking and disastrous.
The infant seats that Consumer Reports evaluated are rear-facing carriers that snap in and out of a base. The base is connected to the car with the vehicle’s seat belt or LATCH attachments.
All tested seats passed the 30-mph federal standard except the Evenflo Discovery. But, when Consumer Reports increased the speed to 35-mph for the front-impact test, seven car seats failed. They separated from their bases, or rotated too far, inflicting grave injuries, as measured by the test dummy with impact recording sensors.
When Consumer Reports performed side-impact tests at 38 mph, eight models failed. Four of the seats flew out of their bases, some twisted violently, and one hurled a test dummy 30 feet across the lab.
Twelve infant car seats were tested, and only 2 performed well: the Baby Trend Flex-Loc and the Graco SnugRide with EPS
Consumer Reports discovered that nine infant seats provided poor protection in some or all of the tests, even though they met the federal safety standard.
Three seats failed all Consumer Reports tough tests: the Evenflo Discovery, the Graco SafeSeat, and the Britax Companion, formerly a top-rated seat.
The worst rated infant seat was the Evenflo Discovery. The Evenflo car seat didn’t meet the federal frontal-crash standard and performed poorly in the side-impact test. Consumer Reports calls The Evenflo Discovery, not acceptable and believes it should be recalled. There are in fact, 6 reports of fatalities with this car seat, but since no safety defect was found Evenflo closed it's investigation.
The Eddie Bauer Comfort infant seat had problems with the fit-to-vehicle test on a base sold with the seat. Consumer Reports found that the manufacturer will supply a better base through a “customer satisfaction program” but only if consumers know to complain to the company.
Consumer Reports also found problems with LATCH, the federally mandated attachment system for child car seats. Most car seats performed worse with LATCH than with vehicle safety belts.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, regulates both vehicles and child car seats. Which poses the question: Why aren’t infant car seats tested as stringently as cars?
It appears the answer lies with the federal, New Car Assessment Program, which tests most cars and minivans, and some pickups and SUVs. The vehicles receive scores as a “star” rating. These ratings are used for advertising and are widely publicized, prompting carmakers to improve the crash protection of vehicles. Child car seat manufactures do not have the same incentive.
572 infants under 1 year old were killed in traffic accidents from 2001 to 2005, with side crashes accounting for 151 of those deaths.
Consumers Union, the nonprofit publisher of Consumer Reports, strongly believes that NHTSA should strengthen safety testing for car seats. Which means including a side-crash test. The Union also believes that the New Car Assessment Program shows that crash performance improves when results are publicized. Consumers Union would also like to see the agency revisit the LATCH standard.
Here are the recommendations offered by Consumer Reports to help keep your baby as safe as possible while traveling:
-If you’re shopping for an infant car seat, buy one of the two they recommend.
-If you already own a Chicco KeyFit, Compass I410, Evenflo Embrace, or Peg Perego Primo Viaggio SIP, use it with vehicle safety belts, which passed the Consumer Reports tests, not with LATCH, which didn’t. If you can’t get a tight fit with the safety belt, return it and buy one of the recommended seats.
-Secure your child in the center-rear seat if the car seat can be tightly fastened there.
-Send in the registration card that comes with new car seats, so that the manufacturer can contact you if the seat is recalled.
-Remember that any child car seat is better than no seat at all.
To read Consumer Reports full report click the link below.