Washington, D.C. – The U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) will develop a new side impact safety standard for child car seats, along with a new consumer program to help parents and caregivers find child seats that fit in their vehicles.

The new program is the result of a comprehensive review ordered by Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood to improve child passenger safety and federal child seat standards. Side impact crashes account for one-third of all highway deaths among children under the age of thirteen. The internal review found that current standards, which require child seats to withstand forces that are more severe than 99.5 per cent of real-world crashes, are effective, but LaHood urged NHTSA to do better.

“Infants and children are our most precious cargo,” LaHood said. “We need to constantly improve our track record and help parents to choose a child seat that fits in their vehicle.”

The NHTSA task force, which reviewed the regulations, found that while current standards offer a high degree of protection, the agency should consider adding a first-ever side-impact standard for child safety seats. It also recommended research on future improvements to the current frontal impact standard.

The agency will institute a new program, beginning with the 2011 model year, under which car manufacturers will recommend specific seats in various price ranges that fit individual vehicles. Nissan and other manufacturers in Europe already provide similar recommendations.

The review also found that half of all children killed in crashes, up to the age of seven, were not in child safety seats.

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