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Infant Car Seat Ratings

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This is not a story about breast feeding. But it is a story that every parent of an infant should read. It’s about car seat safety.
Consumer Reports just released a new study of infant car seats. The tests subjected the seats to the same collision tests required for cars, and the results were downright frightening. (If you want a real scare, watch the video on the Consumer Reports site).
For ratings of all the seats tested, click here. Now here’s a quote from the story.
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.
Infant car seats sold in Europe undergo more rigorous testing than do models sold in the U.S. Indeed, when we crash-tested an infant seat we bought in England, it was the best in our tests. An infant seat sold in the U.S. by the same manufacturer failed. (See European models.)
Our findings offer added evidence of problems with LATCH, the federally mandated attachment system for child car seats. Most car seats performed worse with LATCH than with vehicle safety belts. And LATCH attachments aren’t always easy to use.

So here’s what Consumer Reports recommends you do:
Consumers Union, the nonprofit publisher of Consumer Reports, strongly believes that NHTSA should strengthen safety testing for car seats so that it is comparable with the tests conducted on new cars. That means including a side-crash test. If the New Car Assessment Program is any indication, crash performance improves when results are publicized.
The agency also needs to revisit the LATCH standard. Automakers should make anchors and tethers easy to access. And LATCH anchors should be required in center-rear seats.
For now, here’s how to keep your baby as safe as possible while traveling:
If you’re shopping for an infant car seat, buy one of the two we recommend. (See the Ratings.)
If you already own a Chicco KeyFit, Compass I410, Evenflo Embrace, or Peg Perego Primo Viaggio SIP, use it with vehicle safety belts, which passed our tests, not with LATCH, which didn’t. If you can’t get a tight fit with the safety belt, buy one of the two seats we recommend.
If you own a different infant seat, consider replacing it with the Baby Trend Flex-Loc or the Graco SnugRide with EPS.
Secure your child in the center-rear seat if the car seat can be tightly fastened there. Go to www.nhtsa.gov to find a free car-seat inspection station near you.
Send in the registration card that comes with new car seats, so that the manufacturer can contact you if the seat is recalled.
Remember that any child car seat is better than no seat at all.

Now, for the responses to this story: The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration had already admitted that the LATCH system was confusing to parents. Interestingly, The Juvenile Products Manufacturers Association has questioned the results of the Consumer Reports study.
As for us, we have the Britax Companion infant car seat that didn’t rate so well. Very disappointing. I’ve always been a huge Britax fan. To me, their products are the Volvos of car seats. A little clunky in design, but super safe. In fact, The Britax was previously Consumer Reports’ top-rated seat based on the federal standards. And in terms of personal experience, when The Bortski was about 5 months old I got rear-ended at a stop sign. He was totally fine, thanks to his Britax infant seat.
As for The Bear, given his age and size I think we’ll move him out of his infant seat and into one for an older kid. For now, I’m most likely sticking with Britax. But I’ll keep my eyes out for any further reports.



3 Responses to “Infant Car Seat Ratings”

Wow, thanks for this. I just sent the link off to a mass of friends about to become new moms and dads. As soon as I get home from work I am going to change my car seat from LATCH to vehicle safety belt and from behind the passenger seat to the center seat!
By the way, thanks for this blog. I’m a long time reader, first time commenter. :-)

Thanks! I have been looking for car seat ratings all over and yours is the first one that is usable.

Should check out the State Child Restraint Requirement (http://www.childseatcenter.com/article10.html) before deciding on a car seat.

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