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Report: NHTSA standards do not protect against car seat fatalities

The NHTSA’s standards for gauging car seat safety may be inadequate to protect against car seat collapse and potentially serious or fatal injuries.

According to the North Carolina Department of Transportation, there were more than 108,000 people injured in motor vehicle accidents across the state in 2013. During that same year, over 1,260 people were killed in auto collisions. In an effort to guarantee their safety while on the road, many people choose to buy vehicles with the highest safety ratings. According to a recent report, however, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s standards for motor vehicle seating systems may be inadequate to protect against car seat fatalities.

NHTSA safety standards

The NHTSA has standards which are used to test the safety of automobiles that are sold in the U.S. Like other parts and systems on vehicles, car seating systems are tested to ensure that they meet the federal standards for safety. CBS News reported that safety regulators do this by placing a metal brace across vehicle seats. These braces are attached to a wench, which is pulled backward, applying pressure.

The purpose of these tests is to check the strength of the seating systems that are used in the vehicles sold in the U.S. The tests are aimed at ensuring the seats will endure the force of a crash.

Seating systems do not stand up in collisions

According to CBS News, one motor vehicle accident expert suggests that the standards used by the NHTSA for car seat safety are too low. He claims that all automobile seating systems generally meet these standards. However, even those which exceed the standards may have failures that result in serious injuries or death.

Sometimes, the force of auto collisions causes car seats to break and collapse, CBS News reported. When this happens, the people who are seated in the seats may suffer a range of potentially devastating injuries, such as paralysis. Additionally, seats that break could injure the people, including young children, who are sitting behind them when they collapse. The seats themselves, or the people who are seated in them, may be launched backward into other vehicle occupants. This may result in broken bones, head trauma and other serious injuries.

Changing the standards

It appears that the NHTSA has been aware of these issues for years. It was reported by CBS News that accident researchers and investigators have warned the NHTSA about the dangers of car seat systems since 1992. The NHTSA did begin an investigation into the problem, but the matter was eventually set aside.

During a deposition on the issue of car seat safety, an engineer indicated that it would only cost about a dollar in order to strengthen seating systems. For their part, however, automakers are reluctant to make any changes, arguing that their seating systems are safe enough because they meet the federal standards. Consequently, it does not appear that there are any plans to improve car seat safety or the standards by which they are tested by auto manufacturers or the NHTSA in the near future.

Consulting with an attorney

When motor vehicle accidents result in car seat collapses, those injured may require medical treatment and care. Often, this leads to unexpected medical expenses and, in some cases, lost income while they are off of work to recover. In order to understand their options for pursuing financial compensation, those who have experienced such situations may benefit from seeking legal guidance.