January 15, 2007

Consumer Reports finds child car seats fail at crash-test speeds

Yonkers, New York – Consumer Reports has crash-tested rear-facing infant car seats at the speeds most cars are tested, and found that most of the seats “failed disastrously”. The findings are reported in the February 2007 issue.

Cars and car seats cannot be sold in the U.S. unless they adequately protect occupants in a 30 mph (48 km/h) frontal crash test. However, the magazine reports that most cars are also tested in the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s (NHTSA) consumer information program in crashes at higher speeds – 35 mph (56 km/h) for frontal crashes and 38 mph (61 km/h) – while child car seats are not.

Most of the infant seats failed when Consumer Reports crash-tested them at these higher speeds. The infant seats twisted violently or flew off their bases, and in one case hurled a test dummy 30 feet (9 metres) across the lab. However, the magazine reminds parents that any car seat is better than no seat at all.

Of the 12 infant seats tested, only two seats, the Baby Trend Flex-Loc and the Graco SnugRide with EPS, performed well enough to be recommended by Consumer Reports. Nine infant seats provided poor protection in some or all of the tests, even though they meet the federal safety standard. One seat, the Evenflo Discovery, didn’t even meet that standard, and Consumer Reports is urging federal officials to order a recall of that seat.

The magazine reports that many infant seats sold in Europe undergo more rigorous testing than do models sold in the U.S.; when Consumer Reports crash-tested the Britax Cosy Tot, purchased in England, it was the best in the tests. An infant seat sold in the U.S. by the same manufacturer, the Companion, failed the test.

The magazine’s findings offer added evidence of problems with LATCH, the federally mandated attachment system for child car seats; many car seats performed worse with LATCH than with vehicle safety belts, and the LATCH attachments aren’t always easy to use.

“It’s unconscionable that infant seats, which are designed to protect the most vulnerable children, aren’t routinely tested the same as new cars,” says Don Mays, senior director of Product Safety & Consumer Science for Consumer Reports. Consumers Union, the publisher of Consumer Reports, believes that the government should bring the safety testing for car seats in line with tests that are conducted on most new cars.

Connect with Autos.ca