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Proposal to Increase Safety of Child Car Seats

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3 children in  car seat
Photo credit: Squiggle / Flickr

Since mandated safety features first began appearing in the 1970s, child fatalities have dropped dramatically in car related accidents. Still, accidental injuries remains the leading cause of child mortality in the United States and auto accidents are the leading pusher of those numbers, so safety advocates have continued to call for more stringent measures designed to protect our youngest citizens. Those calls were answered this week with an announcement from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration calling for new rules regarding the need for child car seats to withstand side-impact testing of up to thirty miles an hour.

New Federal Standards…

While child fatality rates have been falling in recent years, safety advocates have still been pushing for more stringent federal testing measures to gauge the efficacy of child seats beyond mere company marketing claims.

Under the old rules, industry standards only required testing on how well child safety seats protected children in head-on crashes with no regard to side-impact results. These new regulations are designed to rectify that oversight by mandating that child seats be able to withstand the typical side impact, or T-boning, type of accident.

The new standards are designed to assess how well various car seat models perform in protecting children, up to forty pounds, from the myriad of head traumas and other injuries associated with highway crashes.

Using a crash-test sled traveling at 15 miles per hour, the test will ram another sled, traveling at 30 miles per hour; to simulate the protection afforded the child from the effects of a door crushing along with the overall impact of the crash. Safety regulators plan on running two separate tests: one that simulates a 12-month old child, and the other representing a 3-year old victim.

Proper Training in Installing…

The new rules allows parents the opportunity to choose car seats based on verifiable testing results regarding safety. However, safety advocates believe more education is needed to ensure that parents are correctly installing the child seat in the vehicle.

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s acting administrator, David Friedman, the fight for safer conditions is broad based, and he wants his agency to move aggressively on a variety of fronts designed to augment child safety including: correct installation of car seats for maximum efficacy. Three-quarters of all child seats are installed incorrectly, according to Friedman, and parents need to be instructed about the many anchors and tethers that are required for safe operation from professionals.

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