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Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Consumer Reports Indicates 10 out of 12 Infant Seats Fail Crash Safety Tests

Only Baby Trend Flex-Loc and Graco SnugRide Deemed Fit for Use

According to recent Consumer Reports test results, of 12 infant car seats tested, the magazine could recommend only two. Most infant car seats "failed disastrously" in collisions at speeds as low as 35 mph.

The report said that seats were unhinged from their bases or rotated from their original place. In one particular instance, a test dummy was launched 30 feet from the impact point.

Consumer Reports is calling for a federal recall of the worst performing seat, the Evenflo Discovery.

Evenflo is disputing the tests' validity, issuing a statement that reads, "The magazine's test conditions and protocols appear to conflict with the collective experience of car seat manufacturers, NHTSA (the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration) and the scientific community."

An infant seat must be tested and proven to perform adequately in a 30 mph frontal crash before it can be sold in the United States, and only the Discovery seat did not meet that requirement. Yet Consumer Reports realized that the NHTSA puts most cars through crash tests at higher speeds, which are 35 mph for frontal crashes and 38 mph for side crashes. Therefore, the magazine used those speeds to test the seats.

Consumer Reports' Don Mays, a product safety director, said, "It's unconscionable that infant seats, which are designed to protect the most vulnerable children, aren't routinely tested the same as new cars."

"We are always interested in making car seats better and safer but not more complicated and difficult for parents,” said NHTSA Administrator Nicole Nason, adding, "We don't want consumers misled into thinking holding a child is better than putting it into a car seat."

Consumer Reports said that while 11 seats met the federal 30 mph standard, 9 seats did not pass some or all of the higher-speed tests. The magazine judged another seat to be unacceptable because of a poor fit in several makes of cars.

Seats that face rear and snap in and out of a base were the types Consumer Reports tested. Depending on the seat manufacturers' claims, the magazine employed test dummies weighing 22 or 30 pounds.

The magazine reported that in the 35 mph test, seats broke away from their bases, twisted too far or would have inflicted severe injuries. At 38 mph, four seats were hurled from their bases.

The only seats that passed all the tests were the Baby Trend Flex-Loc and the Graco SnugRide with EPS, or expanded polystyrene foam. Both seats sell for about $90. Consumer Reports urged parents who are in the market for an infant seat to purchase one of those two seats. The magazine also pointed out "any child car seat is better than no seat at all."

It also reported that some seats performed better when attached by vehicle safety belts, instead of being attached by the LATCH system. The system, which is an acronym for Lower Anchors and Tethers for Children, is secured by belts that hook the base of a car seat to metal anchors in the vehicle.

The National Safety Commission, through and provides safety courses to consumers and businesses in every state and over 15 countries to teach consumers that "safety is no accident" but stems from vigilance and education.

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