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Tuesday, May 05, 2009

U.S. DOT Announces New Consumer Program for Child Safety Seats

Secretary Calls for New Car Seat Side Impact Safety Standard

Recently, the U.S. Department of Transportation announced that it would implement a new consumer program to assist parents and caregivers in finding a child seat that fits in their vehicle. The new program comes on the heels of an exhaustive review ordered by Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood to improve child passenger safety and Federal child seat standards.

Secretary LaHood also ordered the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration to develop a new side impact safety standard for car seats. Side impact crashes make up one-third of all highway deaths of children under thirteen years old.

The internal review found that current standards, which require child seats to withstand forces that are more severe than 99.5 percent of real-world crashes, are effective. Still, Secretary LaHood urged NHTSA to do better.

"Infants and children are our most precious cargo," said Secretary LaHood. "We need to constantly improve our track record and help parents to choose a child seat that fits in their vehicle."

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration task force, which examined child safety regulations, was made up of a team of 30 experts. They cautioned that while current standards offer a high degree of protection, the agency should consider adding a first ever side-impact standard for child safety seats. It also recommended research on future improvements to the current frontal impact standard.

Beginning with the 2011 model year, the NHTSA will institute the new program to make it easier for parents to choose child safety seats. Car manufacturers will recommend specific seats for individual vehicles in various price ranges that fit. Car manufacturers including Nissan and others in Europe already offer similar recommendations.

The review also discovered that 50% of all children between the ages of zero to seven years of age who died in motor vehicle crashes were not in child safety seats.
"A child safety seat cannot do its job if it's not used at all," said Secretary LaHood. "Parents and caregivers need to make sure their children are buckled up properly and child seats are installed correctly."

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