Children in Car Seats at Risk of Injury in Side Impact Crashes


As a parent, there’s no greater fear than that of your child being hurt. For many of us, that means we will do whatever possible to keep them safe—from buying the best bicycle helmets to purchasing the safest car seats. But we are often left guessing as to which car seat is most likely to prevent injuries. The federal government is proposing to update child seat standards and make them safer across the board.

The proposed changes, outlined by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), would mark the first time regulations would stipulate that children be protected from injury and death in side-impact collisions. Car seat manufacturers would have three years to make changes to meet the new standards.

The NHTSA is hoping tougher standards, including new crash test simulations, will save the lives of five children each year and prevent another 64 from being seriously injured.

New Child Seat Testing Strategies

NHTSA Administrator David Friedman explained to the Associated Press that the new testing would demand the safest child seats ever, by simulating a T-bone crash without the car seat being protected by an actual vehicle.

Instead of placing the child safety seat inside a car and then putting it through the rigors of crash tests, it would be placed on a sled, with another sled ramming the side where the seat is located. The “vehicle” where the seat is placed would be traveling at 15 mph and the one that hits it would be traveling at 30 miles per hour.

The testing would use sleds rather than vehicles because the NHTSA wants to test the safety of the child seats, not the vehicles themselves. This would be the first side-impact test of its kind, and would simulate the motion of the struck vehicle and of the door crushing in towards the child in the seat.

In addition to using a dummy meant to resemble the size and weight of a 12-month-old, the NHTSA also has plans to use another dummy with the size and weight of a 3-year-old.

Accident Risks to Children

Children are a vulnerable population and are at an elevated risk for injury and death in the event of an accident. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that in 2010 more than 1,200 children ages 14 and younger died in auto accidents. Another 171,000 were injured

Though child restraint systems can save children’s lives, they are often not used correctly. One study found that more than 618,000 children up to age 12 rode without the protection of a child safety seat, booster, or even a seat belt at least some of the time. Another found that as many as 72% of car and booster seats are installed or used incorrectly.

In the state of Georgia, the law requires child safety seats and boosters for children under 8 years old, unless they are over 4’9” in height.

The move to put child safety seats through additional testing could make the roads safer for children and help protect them in the event of a serious auto accident.

The CDC reports child safety seats reduce the risk of death in the event of an accident 71% for infants and 54% for toddlers ages 1 to 4. Further, booster seats for older children reduce the risk of serious injuries by 45%.

When it comes to selecting the safest equipment to keep your child injury-free, you want to know about the products that have been tested, that the information from the manufacturer is accurate and that you are choosing the best possible safety equipment available. When an accident happens, you want to know you’ve done everything possible to protect your child from harm.