Most Car Seats Fail “Disastrously” In Crash Tests

Consumer Reports has tested several models of children’s car seats and most “failed disastrously” in side-impact tests at 38 mph, and front-impact tests of 35 mph. “The car seats twisted violently or flew off their bases, in one case hurling a test dummy 30 feet across the lab.” Um, whoops.

Two models (of 12) did well in the tests, “the Baby Trend Flex-Loc and the Graco SnugRide with EPS.”

European models are tested more thoroughly than US models, “Infant car seats sold in Europe undergo more rigorous testing than do models sold in the U.S. Indeed, when we crash-tested an infant seat we bought in England, it was the best in our tests. An infant seat sold in the U.S. by the same manufacturer failed.”

This is really out of control. If there are going to be laws that require you to strap your kids into one of these things, they’d better work. —MEGHANN MARCO

Safety alert: What if this were your child?
[Consumer Reports]


Edit Your Comment

  1. AlteredBeast (blaming the OP one article at a time.) says:

    Wow. Good thing I get my children from point A to point B by way of catapult.

  2. While we’re on the topic, let’s pop over to Freakonomics and learn that car seats ARE MORE DANGEROUS than being belted in for children over the age of two.

    The car seat companies also do this sneaky little dance where they fund those massive “learn how to install your carseat properly!” events and push stories and stats saying that 90% of carseats are installed improperly. Know why? Because when you sue them because your child DIED while in their car seat in an accident, they can tell the jury that you’re one of the 90% of people who installed your carseat wrong. It’s not their fault for making a faulty product — or one so hard to use that 90% of people install them wrong — it’s YOUR fault for not caring about your baby.

    I live in Illinois where Governor Soundbite Blagojevich now insists children up through age EIGHT must be in car seats. AGE EIGHT! But what makes me super-furious isn’t so much the government intrusion, but that they’re actually making children LESS SAFE with these moronic laws. So you as a parent have a choice: protect your child according to the best data available and seatbelt him past age two, and get ticketed and possibly end up with DCFS on your doorstep for neglect; OR deliberately and purposefully put your child at risk because the statehouse is full of MORONS who don’t have the spine to stand up and say “You can call this a child safety bill all you want, but the fact is that it’s putting children at greater risk.”

    So what are YOU going to do? Obey the law, or protect your child?

  3. Meg Marco says:

    Eyebrows, when I lived in Illinois (moved in 2005) and started seeing huge…HUGE children crammed into tiny car seats, I thought I was going insane. It’s like clowns driving, which I’ve also seen.

  4. Indeed, when we crash-tested an infant seat we bought in England, it was the best in our tests. An infant seat sold in the U.S. by the same manufacturer failed.

    Time to import some car seats…

    Wasn’t there a guy on that reality show looking for an inventor that said the same thing? I think he said that his child was injured or killed because they don’t work at speeds over 30mph.

    Which is just STUPID. “Oh, our product will save your child in a crash so long as you’re not moving quickly.” Don’t most roads have speed limits over 30mph? Why on earth would anyone think that testing any product meant to protect you in a car should get away with test less vigorous than the car itself gets? What the hell are they thinking? That they don’t have to make a product that works, or even one that doesn’t do more harm when used, because the law requires their use? Don’t any of these people have children?

    Only two of the car seats tested that didn’t pass were less expensive than the ones that did. I need some phone numbers and e-mail addresses. These people should be ashamed.

  5. Frank Grimes says:

    For what its worth we stopped using the LATCH attachments when we had a Houston Fire employee who also baby proof’s houses, explain that he hates LATCH. He feels that seatbelts are much stronger, easier to install and do a better job with side impacts. He also said that if you have a car that is too small for the seat to go in the middle then ALWAYS put it behind the passenger seat (fewer side impact there). Glad to see the NTSA has their heads handed to them by CR yet again.

  6. ElizabethD says:

    What kind of crappy seats are those, to fly all over the place? My 1-year-old granddaughter’s carseat took my DH at least an hour to install and is locked in so damn tight, I don’t think we’ll ever get it out of the car in my lifetime.

    …And to think I survived a childhood with no seat belts, riding unsecured in the passenger seat when Mom drove, etc. She had a permanent reflex of throwing her arm across the passenger seat whenever she had to brake suddenly, to minimize the risk that her kids’ heads would go through the windshield. — Not that I’m recommending this “safety” method.

  7. Looking more closely at the chart, the problem seems to be with LATCH: a few more would have passed had it not been for the bad rating with that test.

    For example, more seats failed when attached with LATCH than with safety belts, even when the installation was done by professionals.

  8. thrillhouse says:

    The ratings on those infant seats were aweful! We’ve had a Britax Roundabout since my daughter was born and not only was it highly rated by the NTSB but it is by far the easiest car seat to use. If you compare it to models half its price ($200), you’ll see where the money went – safty and ease of use.

    I’d like to see CR take this further as there are an absolute ton of car seats on the market that were not in their tests.

  9. kcskater says:

    @ElizabethD, my mother has the same memories. Ah, the long lost days of bench leather seats.

    Ya know, the way people are so reliant on these safety devices these days, you’d think it’s a miracle anyone ever survived back then.

    It’s pretty disgusting that a manufacturer is selling unsafe seats here in the states, but safe seats in England. I think they’re more worried about their bottom dollar than child safety. Corporate greed at its worst.

  10. magic8ball says:

    The Freakonomics article didn’t seem entirely conclusive to me. “Among children 2 and older, the death rate is no lower for those traveling in any kind of car seat than for those wearing seat belts.” (My emphasis.) Death is not the only possible negative consequence of a car accident, and the part of the article that talked about injuries was taken from a study that the writer admits was too small to draw definitive conclusions from. I would love to see more studies done on this, but it seems counterintuitive that less protection from very small children is better than more.

  11. pronell says:

    This all comes back to the government intrusion in the first place. Someone, somewhere, does something that gets themselves – or someone else – hurt, and we end up with a nice, shiny new law that does nothing other than criminalize typical human behavior that isn’t all that dangerous to begin with.

    We are paying people to pull over drivers for not wearing their seat belt. For smoking marijuana. For not wearing a helmet on a bicycle or a motorcycle. For not installing a child-catapult in a moving vehicle.

    We don’t even stop to _consider_ that the total cost of enforcement greatly exceeds the total cost of leaving people to be people.

    I’d be willing to wager that for each and every young child who wasn’t in a car seat that went flying out a window and died on the pavement – as horrible as that is – there were more than a hundred who loved bouncing around in the car with their parents when they were young.

    Now? No bouncing, or you’ll get a fine. You have to go buy an expensive, complicated to use, and essentially _useless_ molded piece of plastic, and the children get memories of being insulated from the world.

    What a deal!

  12. dreamriverdesign says:

    Lots of differences of opinion here. Do what I do. I use the LATCH, Seatbelt and that Harness thing on the side of the carseat that attaches to the seat bars in the cushion of the seats by the seatbelt.

  13. Rick Rockwell says:

    At least they live to have memories, let’s not throw the baby out with the bath water. They just need to fix some of these seat designs.

  14. Elara says:

    Like magic8ball said, The Freakonomics article didn’t say anything about car seats being more dangerous, it said studies show they aren’t any more safe, or are only marginally safer (see their test) than regular seat belts at protecting children from fatalities. You have to read between the lines here- the keyword is fatalities, not injuries. You’d really need a lot more information, to make any kind of jugement call about whether or not car seats are safer or more dangerous.

    There are some more numbers at the NHTSA website that seem to support the use of car seats.

    Again, remember to read carefully- they are talking about “child restraints,” and not regular seat belts. So again, there’s no way to tell which is safer.

    On a side note, I see a lot of people in here with the “well my parents didn’t buckle me in, and I’m alive” idea. Well, yeah, but the same logic could be used by anyone who smokes and doesn’t get lung cancer. Yes, the majority won’t die from it, but if you can reduce those deathes that do occur even a little, isn’t it worth it?

  15. GenXCub says:

    More reason to leave your children at home… alone… with a lighter.

  16. ckilgore says:

    Ok, so, what the HELL do I do with my kids to get them safer in the car? i know there is no way to be completely safe, but this has left me absolutely baffled.

    This shit makes me nervous and I am in the car with my kids for all of 5 minutes a day.

  17. “The Freakonomics article didn’t seem entirely conclusive to me. “Among children 2 and older, the death rate is no lower for those traveling in any kind of car seat than for those wearing seat belts.””

    Yes, I overstated because this topic gets me wound up. :) When Illinois passed the law, there were a lot of comprehensive statistics coming out from various groups pro and con, and I think I conflated some of the con statistics with the Freakonomics article in my head. Sorry about that.

    However, I do recall fairly persuasive statistics that show that once kids are old enough to stay buckled in and hold their own heads up, seat belts are safer because car seats turn children into projectiles with an AWFUL lot of inertial force added by the crappy plastic seat. And while 90% of seats are installed incorrectly, 90% of seatbelts are properly buckled without even thinking about it.

  18. pestie says:

    Another reason not to have children!

  19. RexRhino says:

    Please remember, that cost is an important aspect with child safety devices. There are a lot of places in the United States where you simply need to have a car to get around – the population density is just not high enough for mass transit. People need to drive their kids around, and making carseats more expensive just means that more people will skirt the laws.

    You can demand insanely high standards for child safety seats, but that will drive the cost of the child safety seat up. At some point, a working single parent is still going to need to take their child to the babysitter, they are still going to need to drive to work to pay the bills, and paying $500+ for a safer carseat just isn’t going to be an option they can afford. The kid will end up being strapped in a seatbelt, and covered with blankets, and that will be that. Insteading of parents using a safety seat that is OK (and that they can afford), they will switch to using NO safety seat because they are all too expensive for anyone but “think of the children” yuppies.

    When I was in Cambodia, I saw a family of 5 riding a motor scooter. Do the Cambodians love their children less? Are they less concerned about their childrens safety? NO! Cambodia is a poor country, and people everywhere need to get by as best they can. Those parents would certainly have selected safer transportation for thier children if they could have afforded to. For safety equipment to be universal, it must also be affordable by everyone. If child seat safety requirements are too high (and thus, too expensive for working class people to afford), then parents are simply going to skirt the laws and do without the car-seat, putting more children at even greater risk.

    You are also going to get to the point where companies are just going to stop producing baby seats, because the cost of regulation and liability is too high. The same thing has happened with other products: Flu vaccine administered in the U.S. is produced overseas – This isn’t because the U.S. doesn’t have the technology available to produce flu vaccine (it isn’t difficult to produce at all), it is because the cost of getting sued in the U.S. is so high, that the only people who can make it are people outside the jurisdiction of the U.S. legal system.

  20. Ico Jones says:

    This study was about infant car seats, not the car seats that most kids graduate to after six months or so. The convertible car seats for older kids have a extra anchor that comes out of the top in the back that makes the seats far more secure.

  21. Darren W. says:

    This report has been recalled by Consumer Reports. Check it out at