Legal Guide

Updated Child Seat Safety Standards

Child seats are designed to enhance the safety of infants while traveling on the road. These seats were created to address the problem of children riding in cars on their parent's or siblings' laps, as conventional safety standards like seat belts are not applicable to them due to their age and size. Different companies have developed various child seat designs to address this safety gap, but the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) oversees the safety standards of such products.

A quote from Christopher Largey, personal injury lawyer and founder of the Largey Law Firm, on safety standards: "As a personal injury lawyer, I see firsthand the devastation that can occur when car seats fail to meet safety standards. It is crucial that manufacturers adhere to the guidelines set forth by the NHTSA to ensure the safety of our most vulnerable passengers."

The NHTSA published guidelines to improve the safety of car seats for children. These guidelines specify the testing requirements that manufacturers must observe when developing car seats. According to the previous guidelines, the standard car seat should cater to children weighing up to 40 pounds and approximately 43 inches tall. Child restraints should protect infants from side crash forces and against harmful chest or head contact during crashes. Additionally, car seats should be able to withstand side impact crash forces without fragmenting or collapsing in a way that could harm the child.

Studies on Side Impact Crashes

The NHTSA found that vehicle-to-vehicle side crashes are as dangerous as frontal collisions for occupants between 0 and 12 years. Further, side impact crashes can be more damaging for occupants on the passenger side due to a lack of absorbing structures, unlike frontal or rear-end collisions. Most side collisions lead to lateral intrusion of car doors, which can cause severe injury or even death. NHTSA found that while car seats are impactful in mitigating the impact of vehicle accidents for children, they do not usually go through testing for side crashes. Still, car seats are typically 43% effective at preventing serious injuries from sidecar crashes.

The Final Rule

NHTSA’s final rules address some considerations car seat manufacturers should take to improve protection from sidecar crashes. Some of the test’s manufacturers include are;

  • Testing car seats by simulating vehicle acceleration and laterally intruding doors caused by side impacts.
  • Testing car seats for near side impacts, given this type of impact, accounts for 81% of moderate to critical injuries among children aged 0 to 3 years.
  • NHTSA imposed a 40-pound limit for test dummies used inside car crash simulations. Their research found that testing with dummies above 40 pounds can provide inaccurate results and lead to a false sense of security.
  • Booster seats should have labels indicating they are safe for children who weigh more than 40 pounds.

Benefits of the Final Rule

According to NHTSA, implementation of the final rule should reduce the amount of fatal and non-fatal crashes. NHTSA projects this new rule will save approximately 15.1 lives. The organization also estimated the monetary benefits of the rule between 144.8 and 161.8 million. Child restraint systems have led to a decline in the average occupant fatality among children from 4.5 to 1.1 in 100,000 thousand between 1975 and 2019.

Implementing the final rule will further mitigate the risk and incidence of fatalities and non-fatal injuries among children. NHTSA also found that children above 40 pounds will be protected from severe injury by side curtain airbags. Therefore, the final rule targets infants below their weight and height limits. Other stipulations that prevent side impact crash injuries include increasing padding for children. The organization also specified the requirements for side padding to ensure children get maximum protection from side crashes.

More to Read:

comments powered by Disqus