January 22, 2007

Consumer Reports withdraws infant car seat report

Yonkers, New York – Consumer Reports is withdrawing a recent report it released on the performance of infant car seats in crash testing, pending further tests of the seats in side-impact collisions. The magazine says it will publish a new report with any necessary revisions as soon as possible after the new tests are complete.

The magazine’s original study, published in the February issue, was aimed at discovering how infant car seats performed in tests at speeds that match those used in the U.S. government’s New Car Assessment Program, which tests most new vehicles in crashes at speeds of 35 mph (56 km/h) for frontal impact and 38 mph (61 km/h) for side impact. Child safety seats are currently tested only in front-impact crashes at speeds of 30 mph (48 km/h).

The magazine withdrew the report upon discovering “a substantive issue that may have affected the original test results,” according to a statement released by Consumer Reports. “The issue came to light based on new information received Tuesday night and Wednesday morning from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) concerning the speed at which our side-impact tests were conducted.” The magazine also says that “the new information raises a question about whether the tests accurately simulated that speed, however, so we are now reviewing our tests and the resulting article.”

The magazine goes on to state that, “we urge you to remember that the use of any child seat is safer than no child seat, but to suspend judgment on the merits of individual products until the new testing has been completed and the report republished.”

NHTSA administrator Nicole Nason also released a statement regarding the report, saying, “Consumer Reports was right to withdraw its infant car seat test report and I appreciate that they have taken this corrective action. We are always eager to work with Consumer Reports and other organizations to improve child safety and ensure that consumers continue to have access to accurate and credible data. I was troubled by the report because it frightened parents and could have discouraged them from using car seats. It is absolutely essential for every parent to understand that the safest place in an automobile for an infant is in a car seat. Simply put, car seats are the best defense for a child in a crash.”

Nason’s statement went on to say that, “our initial review of the Consumer Reports testing procedures showed a significant error in the manner in which it conducted and reported on its side-impact tests. The organization’s data show its side-impact tests were actually conducted under conditions that would represent being struck in excess of 70 mph (113 km/h), twice as fast as the group claimed. When NHTSA tested the same child seats in conditions representing the 38.5 mph (62 km/h) conditions claimed by Consumer Reports, the seats stayed in their bases as they should, instead of failing dramatically.”

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