Today I noted a safety alert on the Consumer Reports (CR) web-page. I found it interesting partially because one of my friends is heavily involved in child car seat safety, and partially because of my neices and nephews. It refers to infant car seats that face to the rear and have a detachable base. CR performed some product testing on 12 models of these seats, where they went slightly beyond the American national standards in their testing. The bottom line is that most of the models tested failed.
Currently one of the United States safety rating criteria includes a 30 mph collision test for child car seats and infant seats. However, there are two more stringent tests that are required for cars, but not for car seats. These tests are a frontal collision at 35 mph (about 36% more intense) and a side-on collision at 38 mph (60% more intense). I glanced through the Canadian rating standard as set out in the Motor Vehicle Safety Act, and it seems that the 30 mph test is the only one required domestically for Dynamic Testing (i.e. crash-test dummies and accelerometers, etc) except for spotty provincial regulations . In most respects the Canadian dynamic test is effectively identical to the American test, and this was probably driven at least partially to facilitate cross-border sales.
Here are some highlights:
- 10 of the 12 models failed the enhanced testing. The two models which passed are
- Baby Trend Flex-Loc and the
- Graco SnugRide with EPS.
- 9 models met US federal safety standards, but performed poorly
- 7 failed the 35 mph frontal collision test
- 8 failed the 38 mph side-on collision test
- in the United States, from 2001-2005, about 570 children under 1 year were killed in collisions with about 26% being side-on collisions. Given that the seats are probably less well designed for side-on collisions, this highlights the need for more R&D in that area.
- In the US there is a federally mandated mounting system for the base called LATCH (I think Canada has the same thing under a different name). It has had problems both in ease of use and in the reliability of different infant seat models using it. CR found that when these seats were attached with the traditional seat-belt and safety strap method, their performance improved significantly. They also found that center seat installations and some European innovations improved performance dramatically.
CR recommends the following:
- If getting a new infant seat, use one the the two models that passed the tests (other models probably work as well, but who knows). Also, be careful about European seats that meet more stringent safety criteria; CR bought a British seat that did very well, but when bought from the same manufacturer in the U.S., it failed.
- If you have one of the marginal models, use safety belts instead of LATCH, or buy a better model.
- Use the rear centre seat installation if you can fasten the seat tightly
- send in the registration card for the seat, so you can be informed of recalls
- “Remember that any child seat is better than none at all”
Basically most companies design to the minimum standard, so the standard has to be increased, regardless of the automobile lobbies and the car seat manufacturer’s lobbies. If you’re not convinced, you can take the standards used in Canada and the U.S. and work out some disturbing numbers for forces, accelerations, and projectile velocities as applied to infants. Your kids deserve your care and diligence.
Newfoundland Action Group: Kids in Safe Seats:
- Newfoundland’s car seat action group. It also has good resource material and links
Nova Scotia Information Site: MomsandDads.ca
- this provincial government site gives information and resources to parents of young children. Child car safety is one of the four focal points
- as of January 1, 2007, new legislation regarding child car seats and booster seats have been enacted in Nova Scotia. The booster seat law is now in effect in three provinces, including Ontario and Quebec