NHTSA Proposes Side-Impact Crash Testing for Car Seats

Napping in the back seatOn January 22nd, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) filed for proposed changes to the federal motor vehicle safety standards for child-restraint systems. For the first time, the changes would require side-impact crash testing on all car seats sold in the US for children weighing up to 40lbs.

Until now, federal rules have only covered how well car seats protect children in crashes from the front. But, as seen in a NY Times discussion of the proposed changes, “according to Matthew R. Maltese, head of biomechanics research at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, side-impact crashes can hurt children in a variety of ways. While the door can intrude and strike a child in a car seat, the sheer impact of a collision can cause a child’s head to move suddenly and hit the seat or a part of the vehicle’s interior.” Now, for the first time, we are taking positive steps to prevent this.

According to the NHTSA press release, “car seats would be tested in a specially designed sled test that simulates a “T-bone” crash, where the front of a vehicle traveling 30mph strikes the side of a small passenger vehicle traveling at 15mph.” Also new to this test: a recently developed side-impact crash test dummy that represents a 3-year old child will be used in addition to the existing 12 month-old child dummy.

The goal of the proposed test will be for car seats to demonstrate that they can safely protect a child from harmful head contact with a crushed vehicle door as well as reduce the overall impact of the crash forces on a child’s head and chest. NHTSA estimates that making this change would save 5 lives and prevent 64 injuries annually.

If the proposal is adopted, there would be a 3-year time-frame after final rule publication for car-seat manufacturers to alter or adjust their products to meet the new requirements. And then it will likely be up to consumers to purchase a new car seat to replace their existing one. For now, NHTSA has posted its Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (in .pdf form) which provides 90 days for members of the general public to comment.

On a final note – my personal belief is that this is way overdue – and with 5 lives and 64 injuries experienced by children annually, a 3-year time-frame to meet the new requirements is 3-years too long. One preventable death is by far one too many. Would love to hear your thoughts…

About the Author

Stefanie Zucker is President and co-founder of Pediatric Medical and Managing Director and co-founder of Axios Partners, a strategy consulting firm. After a number of years spent researching the safety issues associated with transporting children on ambulances she became a child health safety advocate and formed Pediatric Safety with a goal of creating a world-wide movement of parents and caregivers inspired to protect the health and safety of kids. Stefanie is a member of the PedSafe Team


6 Responses to “NHTSA Proposes Side-Impact Crash Testing for Car Seats”

  1. Suzanne Hantke says:

    AWESOME!! HUGE NEWS!! And all I can say is “IT’S ABOUT TIME!!”0
    Thank you for the information Stefanie.

  2. This is a wonderful idea, I’m surprised it took this long!

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