Call for Child Safety Seat Reform

Following a Chicago Tribune investigation on child safety seats, U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood announced plans for carmakers to crash-test <"">child safety seats and recommend those restraints which are safest for each vehicle. The Chicago Tribune noted that if the plans are adopted, the system is expected to better assist parents in determining the best child safety seat for their children.

Today, federal regulators rate new cars for safety; however, no such system exists for child safety seats, said the Tribune, which pointed out that a restraint can perform well in one vehicle and poorly in another due, in part, to how the seat fits in the vehicle.

Last month’s Chicago Tribune investigation found “that nearly half of all infant restraints failed catastrophically or exceeded injury limits when federal contractors strapped them into the back seats of model-2008 vehicles and crashed those cars and trucks into walls at 35 m.p.h.,” it said. The Tribune reported that it found those test results “buried in thousands of pages of documents from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.” It seems that the NHTSA used the tests to rate the cars, not the restraints, reported the Tribune.

According to LaHood, the paper’s investigation “really inspired us to look at the data we had and also look at the fact that it was very difficult for the public to review the data,” quoted the Tribune, which explained that LaHood was speaking at a meeting with the Tribune’s editorial board. Now, and at LaHood’s “insistence,” said the Tribune, the crash-test results, which includes “reports, video, and photos,” are posted online at

“What I’d like to talk to the car manufacturers about is the idea that they get some seats, they put them in their car, they crash test them so they can tell people, ‘This is the best seat for this model car,’ ” LaHood told the Tribune, adding, “That is the safest thing to do.”

Baby car seats are designed to shield children from injuries in a car accident; however, problems continually involve defective handles, sudden releases, weak construction, unanticipated rotation and others. Hundreds and hundreds of injuries to infants have arisen since 1998 on recalled car seat models and millions of baby car seats sold since 2001 have been recalled by their manufacturers because of design flaws, including weak shells, flammable materials, base/shell separation, and defective harness systems. From March of 1998 until May of 2001, four major manufacturers of child safety seats announced five recalls involving nearly 10 million car seats.

Also, many other baby car seats for infants are believed to have safety issues, with problems often being realized months, sometimes years before a formal recall is launched. Injuries to children due to defective baby car seats include: Bruises, concussions, skull fractures, broken legs, and scratches.

LaHood pointed to the system in Europe, saying he would work for a voluntary system here and also saying that he is requiring the agency to implement stricter restraint system safety standards in side-impact crashes, “which account for one third of infant highway deaths,” said the Tribune. In Europe, regulators mandate carmakers test child seats in their car crash tests; vehicle safety ratings include how cars protect children, said the Tribune. Not so in the United States, where safety ratings do not consider children.

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