A congressional investigation into the safety of car booster seats during side-impact crashes found that booster seat makers “endangered the lives of millions of American children and misled consumers about the safety of booster seats” and are calling for the Federal Trade Commission and state attorneys general to launch consumer protection investigations.
“Parents are relying on companies to sell safe products and they’re relying on the federal government to regulate those products. And unfortunately, neither of those two things happened and that is disgraceful,” said Democratic House of Representatives member Raja Krishnamoorthi. In February, he and Rep. Katie Porter spearheaded a House Oversight Committee investigation into seven brands of car booster seats—Chicco, Britax, Evenflo, KidsEmbrace, Baby Trend, Dorel and Graco.
The investigation was prompted by a ProPublica report questioning how some child car booster seats received a passing grade after video obtained by the news group showed child-sized crash test dummies being violently tossed around during side-impact crash tests.
At issue are the federal standards for side-impact crash tests for booster seats. There are none. That means manufacturers get to decide whether their booster seats are safe. Since 2002, the American Academy of Pediatrics has urged parents and caregivers not to put children weighing less than 40 pounds in booster seats and instead keep them in harness-style car seats for as long as possible. But some manufacturers are advertising their booster seats for children as light as 30 pounds, and U.S. regulators are allowing it.
“There is not a scenario in which I would ever want to see a child under 40 pounds in a booster seat. It’s just not necessary,” Dr. Ben Hoffman, lead author of car seat recommendations for the American Academy of Pediatrics, told CBS This Morning. “The videos where the impact was on the far side, those were especially terrifying because there is so much movement of the head and neck of the dummy outside of the shell of the booster seat.”
The House investigation upheld those concerns, and found booster seat manufacturers had “mislead consumers about the safety of booster seats by failing to conduct appropriate side-impact testing, deceiving consumers with false and misleading statements … about their side-impact testing protocols and unsafely recommending that children under 40 pounds and as light as 30 pounds can use booster seats.”
According to the report, several booster seat makers have adopted a 40-pound minimum. But this is not standard and it is not required by law. The report also criticizes the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) for failing to create side-impact crash test standards for car seats despite being directed by Congress to do so two decades ago. The NHTSA said standards are in the works.
Some families are taking car booster seat manufacturers to court, holding them accountable for serious injuries they say resulted when their booster seats were involved in side-impact collision.
This is an important issue of consumer safety. We will be keeping an eye on developments resulting from the congressional investigation in hopes regulations will be developed to hold manufacturers accountable for the safety of their products. Children’s lives are at stake. It is clearly evident that when left to their own devices, manufacturers are not willing to step up to make safety a priority.