Did you know your front driver and passenger seats can severely injure your child? Here’s the latest in another excellent report from CBS News Transportation Correspondent Kris Van Cleave on the fight to get regulators to do something about it.
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Begin Original Post – Oct 28, 2010
The Center Seat Is Safest
Most parents already know that the middle of the back seat is the safest spot for children in car seats because the center of the car provides more insulation from side-impact crashes.
In fact, a study in the journal Pediatrics found that kids are 43 percent less likely to be injured in a car accident when their car seat is in the center position.
A simple Google search reveals that everyone from Carseat.org to Babycenter.com and WebMD advise keeping kids in the center position when possible. Though, it goes without saying that this isn’t exactly reassuring for families with multiple kids.
CBS News Finds Fatal Car Seat Flaw
Now, a shocking investigation by Kris Van Cleave and the CBS News investigative team is highlighting yet another reason to keep your kid in the center seat.
CBS News exposed a fatal car seat flaw that regulators are unwilling or unable to address.
We’re not talking about defects in the child car seats that your kids ride in, we’re talking about your front driver and passenger car seats that your kids ride behind.
Even if your car has a 5-star safety rating, your car’s seat may break and collapse.
And, as the chilling new investigation demonstrates, your children may be the most likely victims of this fatal car seat flaw.
Sixteen-month-old Taylor Warner was one of them. She died when her family’s Honda Odyssey was rear ended and her father’s driver’s seat flew back into the little girl’s face.
“I thought maybe she had just fallen asleep. And then when I looked and I noticed there was blood coming out of her face, I knew that something else was wrong,” recounted Liz Warner, Taylor’s mom, fighting back tears.
Child Car Accident Statistics
According to Van Cleave, three children are killed and 470 are injured in accidents every day. About 11 percent of those kids are in the rear seats.
So far, CBS News found nine children killed in accidents like the Warners’. That’s more than the number of people killed by the faulty Takata airbags that prompted the nation’s largest-ever recall.
However, NHTSA continues to claim that it does not have the data to support stricter safety standards for seats in cars. In a statement to CBS News, the regulator states:
(W)e are required to demonstrate benefits, and to consider whether the costs of a regulation would outweigh the benefits.
Bottom line: The absence of data demonstrating real-world benefits meant the agency could not pursue a rulemaking.
While NHTSA claims there is a lack of data, CBS News reports that “NHTSA’s own researchers also warned of the issue in 1992, citing examples of ‘major or fatal injuries’ when seat backs collapse.”
The Middle Seat & “The Way Back”
In spite of that data, we could find no warnings from NHTSA suggesting parents keep children in the center position of the back seat.
However, the CDC does recommend that parents “buckle children in the middle of the back seat when possible, because it is the safest spot in the vehicle,” citing a 2011 study in the journal Pediatrics.
But what happens if you have more than one kid? Carseat.org recommends the center or the passenger side since the driver’s seat is always filled.
“We also recommend that the least protected child sit in the center, not the youngest. A rear-facing child is safer than a booster user, for example,” explains Stephanie Tombrello, the executive director of SafetyBeltSafe U.S.A. “Now that lap belts are no longer permitted in the center rear, a long battle of at least 20 years, one can use the center for booster kids.”
The Warners, who have two surviving children, now have a car with third-row seating. They’ve learned the hard way that the safest place for kids is in the middle seat or “the way back.”
UPDATE: What if I have multiple kids??
We’ve been getting a lot of questions on Facebook from families with multiple kids.
The rule of thumb is to put the child with the most protection (usually your infant) behind the driver seat or passenger seat when someone is sitting in it. Put the child with the least protection (usually kids in boosters) in the middle position or third row.
I know putting your infant in the most dangerous position sounds counter intuitive, but keep in mind; a child is most protected in a rear-facing car seat.
Try to avoid putting children in a forward-facing booster or toddler seat behind the driver or passenger seat when someone is in it. They’re safest in the middle position (always the safest spot in the car).
This is actually another reason you may want to keep your kids rear-facing as long as possible. I’ve had readers comment that they kept their kids rear-facing in a Clek car seat until the child was over 4 years old!
Obviously there will be situations when you cannot avoid putting your forward-facing child behind the driver. In that case, make sure the driver is wearing a seat belt!
Contacting the Regulators
On another note, a couple moms have asked that we share the contact info for NHTSA.
“Thank you for covering this. After reading your article, I emailed the NHTSA about this—perhaps you could ask your readers to do the same? http://www.nhtsa.gov/Contact“
While you’re there, you may also want to ask for an update on their research into a new flammability standard for children’s car seats that can be met without chemical flame retardants.
See: “How I Discovered a Cancer-Causing Car Seat Flame Retardant IN My Child” and “Concerning Chemicals in Orbit Baby and Other Car Seats” for details.
And remember #StaySane!
mary Schneberger rn says
Monique Soltani says
We have twins and can’t fit a car seat in the middle with both in the back. The only way it works is with one car seat on the passenger side and one on the driver side:(
Dan Chabert says
Glad you included the update about multiple kids. That’s very important info.
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