A new Consumer Reports ranking tested 34 infant car seats, awarding only 13 of the infant seats a "best" ranking. The report, which tested seats with more rigorous criteria than the regular government safety tests, is meant to advise parents of the safest seats in front-impact car crashes. Experts chat about what the new report means for parents — and for the 21 seats not considered "best."
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How the Consumer Reports test is different from other safety tests

The speed at which they are testing increases crash forces on the seat and the child ATD (the test dummy). The test bench is designed differently to replicate a more realistic vehicle seat. A front bolster is added to simulate a front seat.

Consumer Reports used to use the same test standards for their car seat safety rankings as the federal government. Their newest safety rankings are based on a test considered more rigorous than the government test in three different ways. Allana Pinkerton, Global Safety Advocate for Diono and Certified CPS Technician, answered questions about the new rankings. When asked about the way the Consumer Reports test differs from the federal government's test, she says, "There are a few differences. The speed at which they are testing increases crash forces on the seat and the child ATD (the test dummy). The test bench is designed differently to replicate a more realistic vehicle seat. A front bolster is added to simulate a front seat. This does not discount the Federal standard, which is still a very stringent test. It's important to point out, most crashes occur under 30 mph."

What parents should know about their car seats

When news about the new safety rankings were made public, Consumer Reports ranked only 13 of 34 tested infant seats as "best." Consumer Reports' complete rankings are only available to their subscribers, but there has obviously been concern from parents about the new test and the safety of the seats they're using currently. Pinkerton is very clear when asked to what level parents should be concerned about their current seats — even those not awarded a "best" ranking. Pinkerton says, "Parents should not be concerned. Again, federal standards are very stringent and every car seat on the market must pass the same federal test. Installing the car seat and securing the child properly every time gives a child the best chance at reducing injury or death."

Installing the car seat and securing the child properly every time gives a child the best chance at reducing injury or death.

How to maximize infant seat safety

Parents want to use safe baby gear, but every seat on the market passes the same tests. Maximizing safety can mean using the seat you own in the proper way. Stacy Henderlong, Child Passenger Safety Technician (CPST), also weighed in on the new report. She advises parents about the best way to ensure infants — and children — are in a safe seat. She says, "The best advice is to select a seat that is age appropriate for your child and will properly fit your child. Not every seat fits every child. Even some infant seats don't fit the average newborn. The seat should be used according to the manufacturer's instructions each time it is used, and parents should have it checked by a certified CPST."

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