I don't know where else to put this, but I hope that if any of you mama's have any of these or know someone who does you read it!
In crashes, infant car seats âfailed disastrouslyâ
Consumer Reports puts seats through same collisions required for new cars
By Tom Costello
Updated: 5:27 p.m. MT Jan 4, 2007
ASPEN HILL, Md. - When parents buy an infant seat for their car, most believe they are purchasing a product that will keep their child protected from harm in case of an accident.
Surprisingly â and disturbingly â many of these parents are wrong.
Consumer Reports tested 12 infant car seats. Nine performed poorly.
The Evenflo Discovery, which flew off its base with the dummy still strapped inside.
The Eddie Bauer Comfort Seat, which technicians were unable to fit properly in any of five different cars.
The Graco SafeSeat and the Britax Companion, which jumped off the seat, then slammed back again.
"The data showed that adults in vehicles are better protected than infants riding in those some vehicles," says Don Mays with Consumer Reports.
Surprisingly, all of the infant seats tested had already passed federal tests.
But Consumer Reports has changed the ground rules: While the federal government requires a 30 mph frontal crash for car seats, Consumer Reports ran it at 35 mph and 38 mph for side-impact crashes, the same speeds used for new car tests.
Consumer Reports says it's time the government conducts its own side-impact crashes and wants a safety recall of the Eddie Bauer Comfort Seat and the Evenflo Discovery.
But the industry say there's no evidence higher-speed crash tests will result in safer child seats.
And Evenflo's CEO insists its seat held up well in more than 200 other tests.
"We steadfastly stand behind the safety of all of our car seats, including Discovery," says Rob Matteucci.
The maker of the Eddie Bauer model, Dorel Juvenile Group, tells NBC News it's now making a newly designed base for its car seats, and consumers are being offered that base, which meets or exceeds federal requirements.
Graco and Britax both says their seats undergo extensive testing and also meet or exceed government standards.
Two infant seats did get Consumer Reports' approval: The Graco SnugRide with EPS and the Baby Trend Flex-Loc.
"The child could be ejected if they're not properly secured in the seat," says child seat expert Emilie Crown.
More than 100 children are killed each year in accidents. Experts caution any seat is better than none.
Â© 2006 MSNBC Interactive
READ FULL REPORT WITH SIDE BY SIDE INFO HERE:
Safety alert: What if this were your child?
Most infant car seats fail our new front- and side-crash tests
Youâd think that in a car crash, infants in their cozy car seats would be the most protected passengers of all. But youâd be wrong, our tests reveal.
Cars and car seats canât be sold unless they can withstand a 30-mph frontal crash. But most cars are also tested in a 35-mph frontal crash and in a 38-mph side crash. Car seats arenât.
When we crash-tested infant car seats at the higher speeds vehicles routinely withstand, most failed disastrously. The car seats twisted violently or flew off their bases, in one case hurling a test dummy 30 feet across the lab. Here are the details:
Of 12 infant seats we tested, only 2 performed well: the Baby Trend Flex-Loc and the Graco SnugRide with EPS.
Nine infant seats provided poor protection in some or all of our tests, even though they meet the federal safety standard. One seat, the Evenflo Discovery, didnât even meet that standard. We urge federal officials to order a recall of that seat.
Infant car seats sold in Europe undergo more rigorous testing than do models sold in the U.S. Indeed, when we crash-tested an infant seat we bought in England, it was the best in our tests. An infant seat sold in the U.S. by the same manufacturer failed. (See European models.)
Our findings offer added evidence of problems with LATCH, the federally mandated attachment system for child car seats. Most car seats performed worse with LATCH than with vehicle safety belts. And LATCH attachments arenât always easy to use.
One federal agency, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, regulates both vehicles and child car seats. Why arenât car seats tested as rigorously as cars?
NHTSA spokesman Rae Tyson says the U.S. car-seat standard is rigorous and that side-crash tests are problematic. For side crashes, âour engineers do not have a performance test theyâre comfortable with,â he says.
TOUGHER SAFETY TESTS
Our new tests are tougher than the federal car-seat standard because a significant performance gap exists between vehicles and the car seats they carry.
The federal New Car Assessment Program tests most cars and minivans, and some pickups and SUVs, in 35-mph frontal crashes and 38-mph side crashes. Scores in the form of âstarâ ratings are widely publicized, and as a result carmakers have improved the crash protection of vehicles. There has been no such incentive for the makers of child car seats sold in the U.S.
The infant seats we evaluated are rear-facing carriers that snap in and out of a base. The base connects to the car by means of the vehicleâs safety belts or LATCH attachments. (LATCH, which stands for Lower Anchors and Tethers for Children, includes belts that hook the base to metal anchors in the car.)
We crash-tested multiple units of each infant seat. In some crashes we used vehicle safety belts to secure the base; in other tests we used LATCH attachments. The collisions mimic a crash in a Ford Explorer SUV, a popular family vehicle. (The Toyota Camry sedan crumples similarly, especially in a side crash, so we would expect comparable results for some sedans.)
We used a test dummy weighing the maximum claimed weight for each seat. Thatâs 30 pounds for the Graco SafeSeat and 22 pounds for the others.
In our 35-mph front-impact test, seven car seats failed. They separated from their bases, rotated too far, or would have inflicted grave injuries, as measured by our test dummy, whose sensors record the severity of impact. We retested these to see whether they passed the 30-mph federal standard. All passed except the Evenflo Discovery.
When we performed side-impact tests at 38 mph, eight models failed. Four of the seats flew out of their bases.
Three seats failed all our tough tests: the Evenflo Discovery, the Graco SafeSeat, and the Britax Companion, formerly our top-rated seat based on earlier tests that mirrored the federal standard. Most other tested seats passed either the front- or side-crash test in some configuration, though only the Baby Trend Flex-Loc and the Graco SnugRide with EPS passed all our tests. (EPS stands for expanded polystyrene, a cushioning material.)
Some Britax Companion seats were recalled in October 2006 because carriers were assembled incorrectly; we tested a later model. The Evenflo Discovery, which we deem Not Acceptable and believe should be recalled, was the subject of a NHTSA investigation in 2004 after the agency received seven reports about the carrier separating from its base. (Evenflo received 52 reports, 6 involving fatalities, NHTSA says.) NHTSA said it could not identify a safety defect and closed the investigation.
The Eddie Bauer Comfort infant seat also had problems, specifically in our fit-to-vehicle test of one of two bases sold with the seat. Because of that test result we judge the seat Not Acceptable and believe the base should be recalled.
Our trained car-seat installers could not get the base to fit securely in five different vehicles. The seat also performed poorly in our side-crash tests. The company Web site indicated that our model included a new and improved base.
The Web site was wrong, which we learned when we later bought another sample of the seat and discovered a different base that fit better. We have also learned that the manufacturer will supply that base through a âcustomer satisfaction programâ but only to those consumers who know to complain to the company. The car seat (also called the Caress Comfort) is being discontinued though it is still sold. We're crash-testing the seat with the other base. Results will be posted in our Ratings in the coming months.
ONGOING PROBLEMS WITH LATCH
No car seat can provide good protection if itâs not installed right, something that the LATCH system was devised to address. A tight fit is important for crash protection, and our testers find that you are more likely to get a secure fit with LATCH than with vehicle safety belts. Nevertheless, the car-seat tests underscore continuing problems. For example, more seats failed when attached with LATCH than with safety belts, even when the installation was done by professionals. The same has been true in our previous car-seat tests.
Our tests suggest that infant car seats might be better secured if their bases were attached to floorboard anchor points in addition to existing LATCH anchors. Another improvement would be for the U.S. standard to allow for car-seat bases similar to many sold in Europe. They include a âfootâ that adds stability in a frontal crash.
Another problem with LATCH is that anchors in many cars are hard to access. And most vehicles donât have LATCH anchors in the safest seat in the car: the center rear. It can also be hard to adjust safety belts to a car seat located in the center rear.
General Motors vehicles are an exception; many have center LATCH anchors. And some Ford models allow parents to use the inner two LATCH anchors from the outer seats to install a child seat in the center rear.
NHTSA spokesman Tyson says the agency will hold a public hearing on LATCH probably in February; the date had not been set as of press time. LATCH has been successful, he says, but there are concerns. âThe problem we have now,â he says, âis parents who are not installing the seats properly.â
All states and the District of Columbia require infants to be secured in car seats when traveling in passenger vehicles. Still, 572 infants under 1 year old were killed in traffic accidents from 2001 to 2005, with side crashes accounting for 151 of those deaths, or 26 percent, NHTSA data show.
No one is saying that a car-seat standard with side-crash tests would prevent all deaths and injuries from side impacts. Still, the families of some victims say it would be an improvement.
Mary and John Gallardoâs grandson, Matthew, was one of those victims. In March 2004, Matthewâs infant seat flew off its base in a side-impact crash on U.S. 49 in Harrison County, Miss., and he was ejected from the car. The Gallardosâ daughter, Candace, was also killed and another grandson, Arron, was injured. âThis was devastating,â says John Gallardo, who wants car seats made so that they better withstand side crashes. âWe just want to help see that no one else has to suffer what my family went through.â
Carlye Siebens and her son Landon were luckier. In May 2006, after securing Landon in his car seat, Siebens pulled out from a stop sign near her home in Deland, Fla. Her car was broadsided, and Landon, then 7 months, suffered bruises and minor cuts when his car seat separated from its base and he landed face down. âThe first thing I did was look in my mirror to check on my child, and he wasnât where he had been,â Siebens says. âYou assume the car seat would have been intact.â
WHAT YOU CAN DO
Consumers Union, the nonprofit publisher of Consumer Reports, strongly believes that NHTSA should strengthen safety testing for car seats so that it is comparable with the tests conducted on new cars. That means including a side-crash test. If the New Car Assessment Program is any indication, crash performance improves when results are publicized.
The agency also needs to revisit the LATCH standard. Automakers should make anchors and tethers easy to access. And LATCH anchors should be required in center-rear seats.
For now, hereâs how to keep your baby as safe as possible while traveling:
If youâre shopping for an infant car seat, buy one of the two we recommend. (See the Ratings.)
If you already own a Chicco KeyFit, Compass I410, Evenflo Embrace, or Peg Perego Primo Viaggio SIP, use it with vehicle safety belts, which passed our tests, not with LATCH, which didnât. If you canât get a tight fit with the safety belt, buy one of the two seats we recommend.
If you own a different infant seat, consider replacing it with the Baby Trend Flex-Loc or the Graco SnugRide with EPS.
Secure your child in the center-rear seat if the car seat can be tightly fastened there. Go to www.nhtsa.gov to find a free car-seat inspection station near you.
Send in the registration card that comes with new car seats, so that the manufacturer can contact you if the seat is recalled.
Remember that any child car seat is better than no seat at all.