Personal Finance

January 22, 2014

KC safety officials applaud proposed side impact test for child car seats

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s plan affects children weighing up to 40 pounds. The agency estimates the upgraded standards would prevent five child deaths a year and injuries to 64.

The government on Wednesday proposed upgrading the standards for child safety seats to protect children in side impact crashes, and officials in Kansas City endorsed the idea.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s proposal for children weighing up to 40 pounds includes the first side impact test for car seats sold in the U.S. The agency estimates the standards would prevent five child deaths a year and injuries to 64.

“Our children are our most precious cargo,” said Sgt. Collin Stosberg, a spokesman for the Missouri Highway Patrol’s Troop A, which includes the Kansas City area.

“Anything we can do to reduce injuries and traffic fatalities is an excellent idea.”

Car crashes are the leading cause of death among people ages 2 to 35.

“We see more compliance with child passenger restraint usage than we did 10 years ago,” Stosberg said. “However, you still see children riding in the arms of the adult while traveling down the highway. That’s the worst possible place they could ride.”

In the proposed side impact or “T-bone” crash test, the government wants car seats to demonstrate that they can safely restrain a child by preventing harmful head contact with an intruding vehicle door and reduce the forces transmitted to the child’s head and chest during the crash, according to a National Highway Traffic Safety Administration press release.

Phyllis Larimore, a registered nurse and certified child passenger safety instructor at Children’s Mercy Hospital, said that type of standardized testing is something that has been anticipated for some time.

“It represents real-life crashes and unfortunately that type of crash oftentimes has deadly consequences,” said Larimore, who is also the program manager for injury prevention at Children’s Mercy.

“We are happy there is going to be a standard test and hopeful, if policy is set, that car seats will be designed and manufactured to meet those.”

The most common crash is the frontal impact, Larimore said. That’s why drivers should make sure children are in the rear seat.

The second most common type are rear impact crashes. T-bone crashes are the next most common.

“Those occur frequently, especially in cities, because of intersections,” Larimore said. “People don’t stop, they don’t see and they run lights.”

While there are some child seat manufacturers that voluntarily do side impact crash testing, there is no standard on how much crash protection there should be, she said.

Terry Dickinson, prenatal education coordinator for Saint Luke’s Northland Hospital and a child passenger safety technician, said the proposed changes to the federal standards are a good thing that could save lives.

“Any life that is spared is worth something like this,” Dickinson said.

She called the proposed changes a big step forward in making child safety seats even safer: “I think it is a huge safety initiative and I was pleased to read this when I saw it.”

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 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 final.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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