Properly installing and using child car seats is an important safety step. The national Highway Traffic Safety Administration reports that car accident fatalities can be reduced by 71 percent among infants and 54 percent among toddlers when child seats are used properly. Despite the safety gains made possible by car seats and other safety technology, car wrecks are still the top cause of death among children in the United States.
Car seats are an effective safety measure, but experts are still working to improve this technology. The NHTSA is attempting to enhance the federal standards by which child car seats are judged. The change would specifically target the performance of the seats in side-impact crashes. At present, car seats are tested for front-collisions and rear-collisions only. They are not tested for performance in T-bone collisions.
If side-impact testing is approved, car seat makers will be given time to respond. Manufacturers would have three years in which to analyze how their products respond to side-impact crashes and make design changes to meet the new regulations. The NHTSA suggested that new side-impact safety standards would be expected to prevent five deaths per year, as well as more than 60 injuries.
The safety potential of child safety seats is enormous. Unfortunately, that potential is often not realized because the seats are not installed or used correctly. Side-impact crash testing will only show how effective the seats are when they are placed in the vehicle correctly and when the child is strapped in correctly. Many parents do not follow the instructions provided on safety seats. The AAA Chicago Auto Club found that up to 75 percent of child car seats are not properly used or installed. Education and increased testing could combine to save countless families from suffering the heartbreak of a fatal car accident.
Source: Forbes, "Feds Want New Side-Crash Tests For Child Car Seats," by Jim Gorzelany, 22 January 2014