NHTSA to require car seats to withstand side-impact crashes

In the United States, new parents are generally not allowed to leave the hospital without first showing hospital staff that they have correctly installed an appropriate car seat for their newborn. For decades, the American public has become increasingly educated in matters of car seat safety. Without these seats, infants and small children are much more likely to suffer injury or death in the event of car accidents. As a result, it is imperative that parents purchase safe, age-appropriate seats for their children.

Yet, for all the education that parents receive about car seats, many may not know that current child safety seats are not required to hold up in certain kinds of accidents. While there are currently frontal crash standards that seat manufacturers are held to, child safety seats are not required to hold up in potentially deadly side-impact crashes.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) is finally seeking to remedy this significant safety regulation gap. Last month, the agency proposed a rule mandating that child safety seats must withstand any side-impact crash that occurs at speeds of 30 miles per hour or slower.

Parents likely hope that the NHTSA will push its efforts eventually to require seat manufacturers to build their products in such a way that they will hold up during rear crashes and side-impact crashes at higher speeds. However, the NHTSA’s proposed rule is at least a step in the right direction. Please note though that this rule will not take full effect for at least three years, even if it is passed soon. In the meantime, parents should carefully research car seat models that already meet or exceed these proposed requirements.

Source: New York Times, “Car Seats to Face Crash-Test Standards,” Bill Vlasic and Cheryl Jensen, Jan. 22, 2014