Q: Looking for resources on car seat testing. I have a separate crash involving the death of a child and am looking to know if/how car seats are tested prior to be put into use
A: I am a retired Durham, NC police officer who spent 20 of the 30 years employed there assigned to the Department TACT Unit, a specialized traffic enforcement unit with crash investigation and when necessary, crash reconstruction responsibilities for serious and fatal crashes. I am also a Safe Kids Worldwide Nationally certified child passenger safety technician instructor, a title I have held since 1999.
Addressing your inquiry regarding crash testing protocols for child safety seats prior to sale is addressed in the National Child Passenger Safety Technician Certification Training Instructor Guide.
In Module 7, Pages 7-1, 7-2, are the Federal Standard for Car Seats.
- NHTSA’s Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard (FMVSS 213) specifies performance standards for car seats and booster seats used in motor vehicles.
Performance standards mandate how the product should perform in a crash.
All car seats and booster seats manufactured for use in the United States must meet FMVSS 213 requirements and are labeled as such.
Car seat and booster seat manufacturers are required to self-certify that their car seats meet the requirements of FMVSS 213. Examples of these include the following.
. The car seat passes a 30-mph frontal sled test,
which simulates a crash, secured with a lap belt
or lower anchor connectors and tether (if
. The flame-retardant fabric and webbing width
meet the specified requirements.
. The amount of force needed to open the buckle
meets the specified requirement.
. The required lower anchor connectors and tether
are present on the seat.
Permanent, visible labels must be placed in the car seat including the following information.
. Statement that the car seat is certified to FMVSS
EXAMPLE: Conforms to all applicable Federal
motor vehicle safety standards.
. Child height and weight limits
. Basic instructions for correct installation, including
maximum weight for use of lower anchor
. Name and address of manufacturer
. Model name or number, and date if manufacturer
. Air bag warning label for rear-facing seats
. Statement that car seat conforms to standards for
use in aircraft (if car seat is certified for use in
As the seat manufacturers self-certify their products, which are subject to random testing, who actually crash tests the child seat can be one of two possibilities.
- Some child restraint manufacturers have their own crash test facilities.
Others employ private crash test entities for this purpose (CALSPAN for example)
Another thing you might look at is the age of the child and the recommended age/weight range of the seat.
- It is not uncommon from my experience to find a child that is either too small or too big for the seat employed. Additionally, was the seat used in compliance with the seat instructions (harnessing, correct belt path) and was the seat correctly installed in the vehicle. Also, but to a lesser degree, what the specific State law(s) are regarding child restraints. Although, many State laws defer to the specific restraint limitations of the child seat which are often somewhat broad and do not take into consideration the child’s height and maturity level.