Car Seat Safety

Consumer Reports Retracts Infant Car Seat Study

Consumer Reports on Thursday retracted a negative report on infant car seats that left many parents worried about their babies’ safety — an embarrassing revelation for the venerable magazine.

Consumer Reports said it was withdrawing the report, issued Jan. 4, because some of its test crashes were conducted at speeds higher than it had claimed.

The original report said most of the seats tested “failed disastrously” in crashes at speeds as low as 35 mph. In one test, it said, a dummy child was hurled 30 feet.

But the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration said some of the crash tests were conducted under conditions that would represent being struck at more than 70 mph.

“Consumer Reports was right to withdraw its infant car seat test report and I appreciate that they have taken this corrective action,” said NHTSA administrator Nicole Nason. “I was troubled by the report because it frightened parents and could have discouraged them from using car seats.”

In an interview, Nason said more than 100 worried parents had called the agency’s hotline on the evening the original report was released.

Phil Haseltine, executive director of the National Safety Council’s Air Bag & Seat Belt Safety Campaign, said the report had raised doubts among many parents about their car seats despite the “very rigorous standard at NHTSA.”

“I think it’s going to take a substantial educational effort to undo that damage,” said Haseltine, whose organization was created through a partnership of automakers, insurance companies and safety groups.

Consumer Reports said it would review its study, retest the car seats and publish a new article as soon as possible.

In a statement Thursday, Consumer Reports said it had received information from the NHTSA “concerning the speed at which our side-impact tests were conducted” — supposedly, 38 mph. Consumer Reports spokesman Ken Weine said new information from the federal agency showed that the speeds were higher.

The Yonkers-based magazine tested the type of infant car seat that faces the rear and snaps in and out of a base. It found only two of the 12 seats worth recommending, and it urged a federal recall of one seat, the Evenflo Discovery(pictured, left). Evenflo had immediately disputed the tests’ validity.

However, Weine said a recall was still being urged for the Discovery and for another seat which was judged unacceptable because it did not fit well in several cars. Evenflo Co. spokeswoman Jam Stewart said the company would comment later.

The original report found that all the car seats except the Discovery performed adequately in 30 mph frontal crashes, which is the standard for seats sold in the United States. But it noted that cars are tested by federal regulators at higher speeds — 35 mph for frontal crashes and 38 mph for side crashes — so the magazine said it tested the seats at those speeds.

“When NHTSA tested the same child seats in conditions representing the 38.5 mph conditions claimed by Consumer Reports, the seats stayed in their bases as they should, instead of failing dramatically,” Nason said.

Consumer Reports’ Don Mays, a product safety director, said at the time, “It’s unconscionable that infant seats, which are designed to protect the most vulnerable children, aren’t routinely tested the same as new cars.”

In the 35-mph frontal test, seats separated from their bases, rotated too far or would have inflicted grave injuries, Consumer Reports said. At 38 mph, four seats flew out of their bases following side impact, it said.

This report has done quite a bit of damage. For Consumer Reports to just “retract” the findings is irresponsible. For me, the shock of hearing that the only piece of equipment I have to keep my baby safe while driving could fail at low speeds, kept me awake the night I posted the article.

Consumer Affairs then posted testimonials from 2 parents who had lost a child from a car seat malfunction.

I feel like Consumer Reports is that kid who yelled fire in a crowded theater. They should be ashamed of themselves.


About the author

Lisa Arneill

Mom of 2 boys and founder of and World Traveled Family. When I'm not running around after my boys, I'm looking for our next vacation spot!

Leave a Comment