Child Restraint Side Impact Testing Proposed by NHTSA

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration(NHTSA) has proposed new standards and testing procedures that would require car manufacturers to make sure child passengers are sufficiently protected from side impacts.  

On January 22, the NHTSA proposed the first side impact test for child restraint systems for car seats designed for children who weigh up to 40 pounds. The test includes the use of a new crash test dummy to simulate a 3-year-old child.

The test comes as the NHTSA calls for upgrades to federal motor vehicle safety standards for child restraint systems. The proposed standards would require car seats to be designed to protect against a “T-bone” crash; when the front of a vehicle traveling 30 mph strikes the side of a small passenger vehicle going 15 mph.

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“As a father of two, I know the peace of mind this proposed test will give parents,” Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx said in the NHTSA announcement. “We all want to make sure our children’s car seats are as safe as possible, and today’s proposal will give parents and car-seat makers important new data on how car seats perform in side crashes.”

The proposed standards are laid out in detail in a notice of proposed rulemaking (PDF) published in the federal register. The rulemaking is open to public comment for the next 90 days.

According to the notice, the NHTSA calls for compliance from all U.S. automakers within three years of the final rulemaking. The testing would involve the new crash test dummy representing a three year old, and one representing a 12-month old in a car seat in a small passenger vehicle struck on its side.

“Impacts to the side of a vehicle rank almost equal to frontal crashes as a source of occupant fatalities and serious injuries to children ages 0 to 12,” according to the notice. “Side impacts are especially dangerous when the impact is on the passenger compartment because, unlike a frontal or rear-end crash, there are no substantial, crushable metal structures between the occupant and the impacting vehicle or object.”

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