The issue of child safety is extremely important, especially in relation to driving. Most countries have laws to ensure that babies and children use appropriate car seats for their age, and these car seats must pass rigorous standards before they can go on sale.
What Crash Testing Involves
In the U.S., crash testing is used to simulate real life collisions. Usually this involves either pulling the vehicle into a stationary barrier, such as a solid concrete wall, or ramming a stationary vehicle with a movable barrier. The first technique is often the preferred choice for simulating frontal collisions, while the second technique is more common for side impacts.
Each test tries to gather as much data as possible from the impact, using multiple high speed cameras, crash test dummies, and a variety of sensors. Obviously, the level of destruction means that such tests are very expensive to conduct, so some of the data can be reused with sled testing. This involves using a movable platform that can be accelerated in line with the data collected from the crash test. An infant car seat, for example, can be attached to the sled, and a great deal of information can be gathered by accelerating the platform suddenly to recreate the crash conditions.
Are Child Seat Regulations Strict Enough?
Interestingly, the regulations regarding the testing of child seats are not as strict as standard vehicle testing. Cars have to withstand both front and side impacts at around 35 MPH, while child seats only have to be tested for 30 MPH frontal collisions. Although these are undoubtedly the most serious kind of impacts, many independent consumer groups feel that the regulations are not strict enough. Some have even commissioned their own crash tests, occasionally with worrying results.
One of the most high profile independent tests was carried out by Consumer Reports in 2007. Their aim was to recreate standard vehicle crash tests, and to see how 12 of the leading infant car seats would fare. Shockingly, only 2 models (Baby Trend Flex-Loc and the Graco SnugRide) passed their test. However, a few weeks later, their report was withdrawn, because their testing methods were found to be flawed. One of the issues raised was that the side impact tests were based on 70 MPH collisions, rather than the intended 38 MPH. This is unrealistic, because side impacts at such speed are rare, and when they do occur, intrusion is a far greater danger.
However, it was interesting to note that some infant car seats did pass such extreme testing, and nowadays, many manufacturers have found that exceeding federal guidelines can be a great selling point. All this can only be great news for consumers!
Mick McMullin is the author of the website [http://www.toddletees.com] which he set up to discuss and review all sorts of kiddie-related stuff. He’d love to say that it’s written from a dad’s perspective, but his lovely wife Emma has a lot of influence too! His recommendation for a great infant car seat? Graco SnugRide.