Some Infant Car Seats May Not Protect as Promised

We all want to do what is best for our children and protect them from any possible harm. As good parents, we do what we can to protect them in case of a car accident by placing them in an infant/child safety seat. But, are we getting all the information to make the right decision?

According a study released in the February issue of the American Journal of Public Health, car accidents are the leading cause of accidental injury or death of children older than one year with more than 500 children under the age of three dying in motor vehicle crashes in 2005. But, the odds of survival increase dramatically, by seventy-five percent, if they were in a child safety seat. The survival rate for older children also improves with a sixty percent increase. So, there’s no doubt child safety seats increase a child’s chance of survival in a motor vehicle accident.

But those child safety seats may not be as safe as we thought.

A recent report in the Chicago Tribune describes crash-test video that shows an infant car seat flying off its base, throwing the baby dummy, while still strapped in its seat, upside down and face first into the back of the driver’s seat.

These unpublished test results were found by the Chicago Tribune buried in thousands of pages of test reports conducted by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) in 2008 to evauate the safety of cars, not the safety of child restraints. But the tests revealed that 31 of the child safety seats either flew off their bases or exceeded injury limits. Of the 66 seats tested nearly half of the seats either separated from their bases or exceeded injury limits.

In response to the Tribune investigation, Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood has ordered a “complete top to bottom review of child safety seat regulations” and ordered the NHTSA to make the crash test results “more available” to consumers.

Some of the manufacturers of child safety seats claim they were unaware of these unpublished reports. In typical “put profits over consumer safety” mode,

Dale Matschullant, general counsel of Newell Rubbermaid, Graco’s parent company, wrote in a letter to the Tribune in defense of its SafeSeat, that all the crash tests were “purely experimental” and are “worthless for purposes of evaluating and comparing infant restraint system performance”.

Mr. Matschullant, a better response might sound something like this, “We very disturbed by this report are vigorously looking into this matter and will issue a recall if the Graco SafeSeat is found to be unsafe. Our nation’s children’s safety is our most important directive”.

I wonder if Mr. Matschullant would feel the same way if that was his baby in that car seat?