Just as child safety seat maker Graco announces a historic recall of their
car seats, federal regulators call for new, stricter rules in the testing
and approval of car seats. As we
recently blogged, the CDC reports car crash deaths of children fell significantly in the
past decade, and these new proposed safety rules could make the roads
even safer for the youngest among us.
From 2002 to 2011, the number of children dying in auto accidents dropped
43 percent. The
National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) says we can further reduce these numbers by strengthening the
tests used to approve child safety seats before they hit the road.
Proposed Car Seat Rules
Just a few decades ago, children riding in cars were free to sit where
they wanted if they chose to sit at all. Many of us who grew up before
the advent of child safety seats remember crawling all over our parents'
cars as they negotiated the road. Times have changed, and with stronger
safety laws and better safety equipment, children today are much safer
and less likely to be seriously injured or killed when an
auto accident occurs.
Still, there is work to be done.
NHTSA Acting Administrator David Friedman recently announced the agency
is proposing stricter crash tests for child safety seats. In particular,
they want to see the seats tested in side-impact crashes. In the tests,
a crash will simulate the impact of the front of one vehicle traveling
30 mph colliding the side of another vehicle that is traveling 15 mph.
The test will determine how well child safety seats protect children during
a side-impact collision, when a vehicle's door crushes inwards during
an accident. Crash test dummies representing both a 12-month-old and a
3-year-old will be used.
Friedman says the new tests could result in saving the lives of five children
each year and preventing serious injuries to 64 more. He further said
the estimates are conservative and the impact could be even larger.
The proposal comes at an interesting time, as car seat manufacturer Graco
is involved in the fourth-largest child safety seat recall in history.
billions of Graco Car Seats Recalled
So far, 3.7 child safety seats have been
recalled by Graco. If the NHTSA gets its way, another 1.8 million infant seats could be
added, which would make the recall the largest ever of its kind.
The recall was issued in response to reports of the buckle getting stuck,
leaving children trapped in their car seats. Perhaps the most tragic related
story involved a young California girl who was trapped in her seat after
a fiery car crash. She died.
Graco admits there is a flaw in the buckle that can result in it becoming
stuck after food or drink spills into the mechanism.
Graco has thus far resisted the government's pressure to include rear-facing
infant seats in the recall as well, despite the fact that they have the
same malfunctioning buckle. Graco says infants aren't likely to spill
food or drink into the buckle and because these infant seats can be removed
from their base, removing the child from the vehicle should not pose such
a great risk. Still, the company is offering to replace the buckles on
these seats, too, without a formal recall.
Keeping the smallest passengers among us safe should be a top priority.
From proper testing of car seats before they get to the marketplace to
recall practices that serve to prevent injuries when faulty seats make
it to store shelves and consumer vehicles, keeping children safe should
be a collaborative effort.