The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has proposed a rule that would require manufacturers to prove their children’s car seats protect users during side-impact crashes, rather than just in front-end collisions. In connection with the proposal, the agency has developed a side-impact car seat test that manufacturers would use to show their products can reduce the forces transmitted to a child’s head and chest during a side crash and prevent the child’s head from hitting a buckled side door.
The proposal would apply to all car seats sold in the U.S. for children who weigh up to 40 pounds. If it is finalized, manufacturers would have three years to meet the higher safety standard. NHTSA Acting Administrator David Friedman said in a statement:
Car seats are an essential tool for keeping young children safe in vehicles and have a proven track record of saving lives. Today we continue to build on our extensive child seat safety program by adding side-impact crash protection for the first time.
The rule would prevent an estimated five deaths and 64 injuries every year, according to NHTSA. Ami Gadhia, Consumers Union Senior Policy Counsel, praised the proposal in a statement, saying it would give families reassurance that a car seat meets a minimum safety standard for side crashes. Ms. Gadhia made this observation:
Right now, most child-seat manufacturers make claims about side-impact performance, but each manufacturer may measure that performance differently. As consumers, we don’t know what type of testing or features go into the manufacturers’ claims. With this new standardized test, consumers will have a clear indication of how the car seat performed in side-impact crash tests.
The new test simulates a crash in which one vehicle traveling 30 miles per hour crashes into the side of another vehicle traveling 15 mph. This is “the first of its kind in the world being proposed for regulation,” NHTSA said. The test would use a standard 1-year-old crash dummy and a new 3-year-old dummy. Members of the public have 90 days to comment on the proposed rule. The proposal comes nearly three years after the NHTSA issued new guidelines advising drivers to keep infants in backward-facing car seats until age 2 or until they reach the maximum height and weight for the seat.
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