Consumer Reports retracts infant car-seat safety findings
Consumer Reports was forced Thursday to retract a damning report on infant car seats after the federal government said test crashes on the...
The Associated Press
WHITE PLAINS, N.Y. — Consumer Reports was forced Thursday to retract a damning report on infant car seats after the federal government said test crashes on the seats were conducted at drastically higher speeds than the magazine had claimed.
The revelation amounts to an embarrassment for the trusted consumer guide, and a relief to parents who were frightened about their babies' safety after the original report came out.
That report said most of the seats tested "failed disastrously" in crashes at speeds as low as 35 mph. In one test, it said, a child-sized dummy was hurled 30 feet.
But the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) said some of the crash tests were conducted under conditions that would represent being struck at more than 70 mph.
"Consumer Reports was right to withdraw its infant car-seat-test report, and I appreciate that they have taken this corrective action," said NHTSA administrator Nicole Nason. "I was troubled by the report because it frightened parents and could have discouraged them from using car seats."
In an interview, Nason said more than 100 worried parents had called the agency's hotline on the evening the original report was released.
Phil Haseltine, executive director of the National Safety Council's Air Bag & Seat Belt Safety Campaign, said the report had raised doubts among many parents about their car seats despite the "very rigorous standard at NHTSA."
"I think it's going to take a substantial educational effort to undo that damage," said Haseltine, whose organization was created through a partnership of automakers, insurance companies and safety groups.
Consumer Reports said it would review its study, retest the car seats and publish a new article as soon as possible.
In a statement Thursday, Consumer Reports said it had received information from NHTSA "concerning the speed at which our side-impact tests were conducted" — supposedly, 38 mph. Consumer Reports spokesman Ken Weine said new information from the federal agency showed that the speeds were higher.
The Yonkers-based magazine tested the type of infant car seat that faces the rear and snaps in and out of a base. It found only two of the 12 seats worth recommending, and it urged a federal recall of one seat, the Evenflo Discovery. Evenflo had immediately disputed the tests' validity.
However, Weine said a recall was still being urged for the Discovery and for another seat that was judged unacceptable because it did not fit well in several cars. Evenflo Co. said Thursday that it had run 17 tests on randomly purchased Discovery seats in the past week and that the seat passed federal standards each time.
The original report found that all the car seats except the Discovery performed adequately in 30 mph frontal crashes, which is the standard for seats sold in the United States. But it noted that cars are tested by federal regulators at higher speeds — 35 mph for frontal crashes and 38 mph for side crashes — so the magazine said it tested the seats at those speeds.
"When NHTSA tested the same child seats in conditions representing the 38.5 mph conditions claimed by Consumer Reports, the seats stayed in their bases as they should, instead of failing dramatically," Nason said.
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