Last month the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has proposed tougher safety standards for child car seats. Under the new standards, car seats would be required to protect children weighing up to 40 pounds from injury or death in the event of a side-impact collision.
The NHTSA estimates the updated safety standard could reduce the number of automobile-related deaths of children by about five per year. The number of children injured in side-impact collisions each year could be reduced by about 64 according to the agency.
NHTSA Acting Administrator David Friedman says the agency proposes subjecting car seats to conditions similar to those encountered in side-impact collisions at relatively low speeds which Friedman says account for “over 90 percent of the side-impact crashes seen in the real world.”
A large percentage of side-impact collisions that result in deaths and injuries to children occur when the vehicles they are riding in are struck while accelerating through intersections after sitting at stop signs and traffic lights.
Actual vehicles will not be used in the tests. Instead, researchers will mount the seats on a sled which will travel along a track at 15 mph. A second sled, traveling at 30 mph, will broadside it to simulate real world crash conditions.
In a statement, Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx said the proposed test will “give parents and car-seat makers important new data on how car seats perform in side crashes.”
Commenting on the proposed test, former NHTSA administrator Joan Claybrook, who served during the Carter administration and later served as the president of the consumer advocacy group Public Citizen said, “I think this is terrific. We have an absolute moral obligation to protect children.”
A number of child car-seat makers have already altered their designs to offer increased protection in the event of a side-impact crash. The world’s largest child car-seat maker, The Dorel Juvenile Group, has been selling models that feature pre-inflated side air bags since 2009.
Although the NHTSA is hopeful that the new standards will be adopted soon, regulatory changes like this can take months or even years. Once the new standards have been approved, car-seat makers will have three years to come into compliance.