05Lisa Arneill+ in Baby Safety, Car Seat Safety
You would think that a “safety” product that is being sold for infants would be safe.
Consumer reports is issuing a Safety Alert to parents to check their carseats.
Cars and car seats can’t be sold unless they can withstand a 30-mph frontal crash. But most cars are also tested in a 35-mph frontal crash and in a 38-mph side crash. Car seats aren’t.When we crash-tested infant car seats at the higher speeds vehicles routinely withstand, most failed disastrously. The car seats twisted violently or flew off their bases, in one case hurling a test dummy 30 feet across the lab.
Here are the details:
- Of 12 infant seats we tested, only 2 performed well: the Baby Trend Flex-Loc and the Graco SnugRide with EPS.
- Nine infant seats provided poor protection in some or all of our tests, even though they meet the federal safety standard. One seat, the Evenflo Discovery, didn’t even meet that standard. We urge federal officials to order a recall of that seat.
- Infant car seats sold in Europe undergo more rigorous testing than do models sold in the U.S. Indeed, when we crash-tested an infant seat we bought in England, it was the best in our tests. An infant seat sold in the U.S. by the same manufacturer failed. (See European models.)
- Our findings offer added evidence of problems with LATCH, the federally mandated attachment system for child car seats. Most car seats performed worse with LATCH than with vehicle safety belts. And LATCH attachments aren’t always easy to use.One federal agency, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, regulates both vehicles and child car seats. Why aren’t car seats tested as rigorously as cars?NHTSA spokesman Rae Tyson says the U.S. car-seat standard is rigorous and that side-crash tests are problematic. For side crashes, “our engineers do not have a performance test they’re comfortable with,” he says.
WHAT YOU CAN DOConsumers Union, the nonprofit publisher of Consumer Reports, strongly believes that NHTSA should strengthen safety testing for car seats so that it is comparable with the tests conducted on new cars. That means including a side-crash test. If the New Car Assessment Program is any indication, crash performance improves when results are publicized.The agency also needs to revisit the LATCH standard. Automakers should make anchors and tethers easy to access. And LATCH anchors should be required in center-rear seats.For now, here’s how to keep your baby as safe as possible while traveling:
- If you’re shopping for an infant car seat, buy one of the two we recommend. (See the Ratings.)
- If you already own a Chicco KeyFit, Compass I410, Evenflo Embrace, or Peg Perego Primo Viaggio SIP, use it with vehicle safety belts, which passed our tests, not with LATCH, which didn’t. If you can’t get a tight fit with the safety belt, buy one of the two seats we recommend.
- If you own a different infant seat, consider replacing it with the Baby Trend Flex-Loc or the Graco SnugRide with EPS.
- Secure your child in the center-rear seat if the car seat can be tightly fastened there. Go to www.nhtsa.gov to find a free car-seat inspection station near you.
- Send in the registration card that comes with new car seats, so that the manufacturer can contact you if the seat is recalled.
- Remember that any child car seat is better than no seat at all