Are Children’s Car Seats Safe?

Infant in a car seat

According to recent reports, it’s unclear whether car seats are safe. Current testing methods for car seats are inadequate and based on insufficient test data. Nevertheless, despite questionable data, new standards are being issued. However, the reliability and accuracy of the new standards is remains to be seen.

For example, the National Highway Safety Traffic Administration (NHSTA), the federal agency tasked with setting safety standards for automobiles, doesn’t test children’s car seats for side impact crashes, nor does it set standards for car seats made for children who weigh over 65 pounds.

According to this Washington Post article, the reason for this testing failure is due to difficulties in developing life-like child dummies for testing:

That’s because the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has yet to develop a lifelike child crash test dummy that can accurately ensure that seats for heavier children provide the protections promised.

Problems with developing child dummies are also a key reason why seats for all children have no federal requirements for effectiveness in side-impact, rear-end and rollover collisions, car seat experts said.

However, despite the NHSTA’s inability to test child seats, it just issued new child car seat safety guidelines, as reported in this article:

The American Academy of Pediatrics and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration have released new guidelines for car seats.

The groups now say children should ride in rear-facing car seats until they are 2 years old.

The new guidelines also state that some kids should ride in booster seats until they are as tall as 4 feet 9 inches, 12 years old, or the lap-belt fits them.

The uncertainties regarding appropriate recommendations and the insufficient guidelines issued based on guesses and estimations are simply insufficient. Ensuring the safety of our children and protecting them in the event of an automobile accident should be one of the NHSTA’s top priorities. Let’s hope that the testing of car seats improves in the very near future. The current state of testing is nothing short of shameful. Our children, some of the most vulnerable members of our society, deserve better.

Howard Ankin of Ankin Law ( handles workers’ compensation and personal injury cases. Mr. Ankin can be reached at (312) 600-0000 and