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Consumer Reports Recalls Its Own Report On Infant Car Seats

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Consumer Reports has always been my Bible. I would never buy a car or a children’s product without first checking what CR has to say.
Well today, my faith in CR is shot. They’ve withdrawn the scathing story they published earlier this month about infant car seats. It seems there was a big mistake in the report. The report claimed CR tested the car seats at a certain speed, 38 m.p.h, when in fact it was closer to 70 m.p.h according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA).
CR is backpedaling furiously. If you try to find that original story on its site, it is gone. Gone. Completely gone. I wrote a post about the original report. And now, when I click on the links in that post that are supposed to take me to the study, I’m directed instead to today’s press release.
Here’s a quote from that orginal study:
Cars and car seats can’t be sold unless they can withstand a 30-mph frontal crash. But most cars are also tested in a 35-mph frontal crash and in a 38-mph side crash. Car seats aren’t.
When we crash-tested infant car seats at the higher speeds vehicles routinely withstand, most failed disastrously. The car seats twisted violently or flew off their bases, in one case hurling a test dummy 30 feet across the lab. Here are the details:
Of 12 infant seats we tested, only 2 performed well: the Baby Trend Flex-Loc and the Graco SnugRide with EPS.
Nine infant seats provided poor protection in some or all of our tests, even though they meet the federal safety standard. One seat, the Evenflo Discovery, didn’t even meet that standard. We urge federal officials to order a recall of that seat.

Here’s what CR is saying today:

Consumer Reports is withdrawing its recent report on infant car seats pending further tests of the performance of those seats in side-impact collisions.
A new report will be published with any necessary revisions as soon as possible after the new tests are complete.
We withdrew the report immediately upon discovering a substantive issue that may have affected the original test results. The issue came to light based on new information received Tuesday night and Wednesday morning from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) concerning the speed at which our side-impact tests were conducted.

For a minute now, let’s put aside the colossal error CR seems to have made and look at the bigger picture. If these seats were actually tested at 70 m.p.h, and they “failed disastrously,” then maybe the seats really are dangerous. Honestly, don’t most of us drive on highways from time to time? If so, we’re not going 38 m.p.h., that’s for sure.
In which case, maybe it’s NHTSA which should come under a bit of scrutiny here. According to the New York Times, NHTSA only requires car seats to pass a test at 30 m.p.h.
The federal government requires that the seats protect babies in front impacts of 30 m.p.h. The highway traffic safety agency said it was trying to develop a side-impact standard. It rates cars under a New Car Assessment Program, which it uses to award “stars” to each model, and those are done at 38 m.p.h. for side impact.
So, while I’m disappointed in Consumer Reports, I do think there may just be a kernel worth hanging on to in their report. Moms and dads, check out their original study, it’s worth considering.

3 Responses to “Consumer Reports Recalls Its Own Report On Infant Car Seats”

Wow. Thanks for writing this! I read that report last weekend and was thinking about what it would take to get one of the European ones. I love CR, too. Bummer.

1. If Consumer reports messed up the speeds, don’t you think there might also be other problems with the tests that might explain why some car seats, still not necessarily safe at 70 mph, passed and others did not?
2. The NHTSA standards are based on the actual conditions that most accidents happen in. (something over 90% of accidents) By the time cars hit, even when on the freeway, they are NOT going 60mph unless something is really wrong.
3. Check out the safety statistics of those two “So wonderfully safe” seats — if they are THAT much better than the rest, they should be passing through accidents in the real world with flying colors. obviously and dramatically.

I’m witholding judgement for the moment. I don’t understand WHY NHTSA tests child seats at only 35 or 38 miles an hour. That’s just not realistic. Why don’t they test at at least 65 miles per hour. I’ll be waiting for the new report.

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