Child car safety upgrade: Side-impact standards

Feds roll out proposal for child car seat safety


The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has announced that it will work toward new safety standards for children's car seats.

The regulations will ensure that car seats better protect children from side-impact collisions as well as head-on.

Testing for car seats currently focuses on forward only crashes, but now federal regulators plan to establish a side-impact test, simulating a "T-Bone crash," where an oncoming vehicle collides with the side of another one. Research has shown that child deaths and injuries occur when the car carrying a child is stopped at an intersection, begins to accelerate, and is struck by a car going at a higher speed on the cross street. The new NHTSA test will simulate this situation.

Dr. Benjamin Hoffman is a general pediatrician and spokesperson for the American Academy of Pediatrics. "It would have been nice, you know, to have this a long time ago, but this is definitely a case of better late than never," he told Ruth to the Rescue.

The good news for parents is that most car seat manufacturers already sell products that meet the standards for protection during a side impact crash. The new federal regulations will ensure that these practices are standard across all manufacturers.

"For those who don't, they would be adding added foam and maybe increasing the size of their side wings to ensure that children are protected in the event of a side impact," said David Friedman, acting direction at NHTSA.

The federal regulations will also standardize testing practices, and set a benchmark for safety. Currently, manufacturers perform their own side-impact tests, but there is no way to compare those findings.

"With these new requirements from NHTSA, we're going to be able to compare apples and apples-- as opposed to apples and oranges, or apples and pomegranates" said Dr. Benjamin.

Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx said in a statement, "As a father of two, I know the peace of mind this proposed test will give parents."

The NHTSA estimates that the new standards will prevent the deaths of about five children per year. Dr. Benjamin feels that the safety benefits could extend even further. "The deaths are absolutely, positively the tip of the iceberg. In general for every death there's going to be between 10 and 100 injuries."

All child safety experts will tell you the best way to protect your child is to make sure they are seated in an appropriate car seat, used correctly, every time they ride in the car.

Information on help with child seat recalls and installing car seats can be found at safercar.gov.