New regulations sought for child car seats

By By The Associated Press

WASHINGTON — Child car seats would for the first time have to protect children from death and injury in side-impact crashes

under regulations the government is proposing, The Associated Press has learned.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration seeks to upgrade standards for child seats for children weighing up to

40 pounds to include a new test that simulates a side crash. The agency estimates the standards will prevent the deaths of

about five children and injuries to 64 others each year.

NHTSA Acting Administrator David Friedman is scheduled to announce the proposal Wednesday.

Under the proposal, the new tests will

simulate a "T-bone" crash, where the front of a vehicle traveling 30 mph

strikes the

side of a small passenger vehicle traveling at 15 mph. The tests

will position the car seat on a sled, with another sled ramming

the side of the sled with the seat, rather than using actual

vehicles since the aim isn't to test the crash worthiness of

specific vehicles, NHTSA officials said.

Research shows that many child deaths and

injuries in side-impact crashes involve a car carrying children that is

stopped

at an intersection, usually at a light or stop sign, officials

said. When the car begins to accelerate to go through the intersection,

it is struck in the side by a vehicle traveling at a higher rate

of speed on the cross street.

The side-impact test — the first of its kind — simulates both the acceleration of the struck vehicle and the vehicle's door

crushing inward toward the car seat. Besides using a 12-month-old child dummy already approved under NHTSA standards, the

proposed test will also utilize a to-be-developed side-impact dummy representing a 3-year-old child.

"As a father of two, I know the peace of

mind this proposed test will give parents," Transportation Secretary

Anthony Foxx

said in a statement. The test "will give parents and car seat

makers important new data on how car seats perform in side crashes."

Friedman called car seats "an essential tool for keeping young children safe in vehicles and have a proven track record of

saving lives."

Safety advocates have long sought tougher standards for car seats to protect against side-impact crashes.

"I think this is terrific," said Joan Claybrook, who was the NHTSA administrator during the Carter administration and later

president of Public Citizen. She noted that today's passenger vehicles have eight air bags, in part to protect adults from

side-impact crashes. "We have an absolute moral obligation to protect children as well," she said.

NHTSA's estimates of the number of lives that will be saved and injuries prevented by the proposed standards are "very, very

conservative," Claybrook said.

Some manufacturers are already taking steps

to improve the protection afforded by their car seats in side-impact

crashes.

The Dorel Juvenile Group, the world's largest car-seat maker, has

been incorporating small, already-inflated air bags into

some of their models to protect children's heads from injury in

side-impact crashes since 2009, said Julie Vallese, a spokeswoman

for the Columbus, Ohio, company. Another impact-absorbing

technology derived from protections found in Indy race cars is built

into the sides of the chairs, she said.

"Dorel committed to side impact protection," Vallese said.

The public will have 90 days to comment on the proposed regulations after they are published this week. The regulations won't

be made final until after the agency has reviewed the comments and answered any important issues that may be raised. That

typically takes months and sometimes years, although NHTSA officials said they hope to move quickly.

The proposal includes giving car seat manufacturers three years to make any adjustments to meet the new requirements. That

window doesn't begin until the regulations are made final.