Feds Propose Side-Impact Child Seat Rules


  • Car Seats Picture

    Car Seats Picture

    The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration is proposing rules to protect children in car seats from side crashes. | January 24, 2014

Just the Facts:
  • The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration is proposing rules to protect children in car seats from side crashes.
  • The rules would save five lives and prevent 64 injuries annually, according to a NHTSA estimate.
  • If enacted, this would be the first side-impact test for car seats sold in the U.S. that are designed for children weighing up to 40 pounds.

WASHINGTON — The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration is proposing rules to protect children in car seats from side crashes.

The rules would save five lives and prevent 64 injuries annually, according to a NHTSA estimate.

If enacted, this would be the first side-impact test for car seats sold in the U.S. that are designed for children weighing up to 40 pounds.

"As a father or two, I know the peace of mind this proposed test will give parents," said Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx in a statement. "We all want to make sure our children's car seats are as safe as possible, and today's proposal will give parents and car-seat makers important new data on how car seats perform in side crashes."

Under the proposal, car seats would be tested in a specially designed sled test that simulates a "T-bone" crash, where the front of a vehicle traveling 30 mph strikes the side of a small passenger vehicle traveling at 15 mph. The test simulates the acceleration of the struck vehicle and the vehicle door crushing toward the car seat.

In addition to using an existing 12-month-old child dummy, the proposed test will also use a new side-impact dummy representing a three-year-old child.

"Side impacts are especially dangerous when the impact is on the passenger compartment because, unlike a frontal or rear-end crash, there are no substantial, crushable metal structures between the occupant and the impacting vehicle or object," the proposal said.

"The door collapses into the passenger compartment and the occupants contact the door relatively quickly after the crash at a high relative velocity."

Federal safety regulators say a new side-impact rule would add about 50 cents to the price of a car seat. Changes to car seats as a result of the rule may include "larger (side) wings and padding with energy-absorption characteristics," the proposal said.

The rule is expected to cost the child-seat industry about $3.7 million, NHTSA said.

The new rules are expected to take effect three years after a regulation is finalized.

Edmunds says: The proposal is a sound one, since it won't cost consumers that much and affords greater protection to kids in side crashes. The next step would be working on possible rear-crash protection for child seats.

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