State officials push for tighter child car seat standards

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Seventeen attorneys general want a federal side-impact standard

Child car seats are designed to keep young children safe when traveling in a vehicle, but 17 state attorneys general say those seats are not safe enough. They’ve filed a petition with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) to modify current standards.

In a letter sent to the NHTSA and the Department of Transportation, the coalition of state officials asked the former agency to immediately begin developing standards for side-impact. The letter said these standards should have been developed 20 years ago.

The attorneys general also urged the NHTSA to require labels on all car seats that say children should continue to use them until they exceed the height or weight limits.

“I’ve buckled my kids into their car seats more times than I can count, and each time I did so trusting that they were in the safest place they could be,” said Connecticut Attorney General William Tong. “NHTSA has an obligation to every parent nationwide to adopt clear, strong standards that keep our children safe on the roads. Families cannot wait another 20 years for NHTSA to finally act.”

Tong points out that Congress first instructed the NHTSA to adopt side-impact standards for child car seats in 2000. He notes that manufacturers voluntarily conduct their own side-impact tests but without federal standards. As a result, he said parents aren’t sure which seats are the best.

“As families pack their cars for summer road trips, we must ensure that parents have the right information to keep their children safe on the road,” said New York Attorney General Letitia James. 

Leading cause of death

In their letter to federal regulators, the attorneys general said auto accidents are the leading cause of death for children aged one to 13. They say child car seats have significantly reduced deaths and injuries, but there’s still room for improvement.

Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey said side-impact crashes cause almost as many child injuries and deaths as frontal-impact crashes and are more likely than any other type of crashes to cause serious or fatal injuries.

“Almost 5,000 children under 15 have died in car crashes from 2015 to 2019, which equates to about 19 children each week over that time period,” she said.

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