New Side Crash Protection Legislation for Child Car Seats Proposed

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has for the first time proposed legislation that would set new standards regarding car seats, seeking to protect small children and infants in side-impact vehicle crashes. The new proposal covers standards for child seats that fit children up to 40 pounds. The seats will be tested in simulated side crashes in the hopes of preventing the 60+ injuries and 5 deaths of children that happen in such crashes per year on average.

NHTSA Acting Administrator David Friedman spoke recently to a group of engineers about the new proposed standards: “Car seats are an essential tool for keeping young children safe in vehicles, and they have a proven track record of saving lives.”

The new testing will simulate a “T-bone” crash, with the front of a car traveling 30 mph strikes the side of a small passenger vehicle traveling 15 mph. The research behind this, says Friedman, shows that “these speeds will cover over 90% of the side-impact crashes seen in the real world.” Since the testing isn’t meant to test the worthiness of specific vehicles, the car seats will be strapped into sleds which will simulate the crashes.

Most accidents of this kind happen at intersections and involve cars that are actually stopped at a light or stop sign. When vehicles begin to accelerate to travel through the intersection, they are then struck by vehicles traveling faster on the cross street. The side impact tests would use a 12-month-old child sized dummy as well as a soon to be developed 3-year-old child dummy.

Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx recently spoke from a parent’s point of view, stating, “As a father of two, I know the peace of mind this proposed test will give parents. (The test) will give parents and car-seat makers important new data on how car seats perform in side crashes.”

Some car seat manufacturers are already making efforts to protect children during side-impact crashes. The Dorel Juvenile Group is the largest of these in the world. The company has already incorporated small, inflated air bags in their seats to keep children’s heads safe during this type of accident says spokesperson Julie Vallese. They also use Indy race car inspired technology in the sides of the chairs to absorb impact.

The regulations will not be final until they are released to the public with a 90 day period for comments and issues to be raised by the public. After a review of these comments (which can take up to months or years) the regulations may be finalized. NHTSA officials are hoping the process will move quickly. After approval, manufacturers would be given a three year period to comply.

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