DOT Announces New Consumer Program for Child Safety Seats

The Department of Transportation recently announced that it will create a new consumer program to help parents and caregivers find a child seat that fits in their vehicle. The program is the result of a comprehensive review ordered by Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood to improve child passenger safety and Federal child seat standards.

LaHood also ordered the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration to develop a new side impact safety standard for car seats. Side impact crashes account for one-third of all highway deaths among children under thirteen years old.

The internal review found that current standards, which require child seats to withstand forces that are more severe than 99.5 percent of real-world crashes, are effective; however, LaHood urged NHTSA to do better. "Infants and children are our most precious cargo," he said. "We need to constantly improve our track record and help parents to choose a child seat that fits in their vehicle."

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration task force, which reviewed child safety regulations, was comprised of a team of 30 experts. The team found that while current standards offer a high degree of protection, the agency should consider adding a first ever side-impact standard for child safety seats. It also recommended research on future improvements to the current frontal impact standard.

NHTSA will institute a new program beginning with the 2011 model year to make it easier for parents to choose child safety seats. Car manufacturers will recommend specific seats in various price ranges that fit for individual vehicles. Car manufacturers including Nissan and others in Europe already provide similar recommendations.

The review also found that half of all children between the ages of zero to seven years of age, who were killed in motor vehicle crashes, were not in child safety seats.

"A child safety seat cannot do its job if it's not used at all," LaHood said. "Parents and caregivers need to make sure their children are buckled up properly and child seats are installed correctly."

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