Don't give up on infant car seats: Reports of their dangers are premature

February 1, 2007

When

When Consumer Reports tests a product used for infants, parents sit up and take notice. So it was late in early January, when the prestigious journal publicized an article asserting that rear-facing car seats did not dependably protect infants in head-on collisions at speeds of 35 mph nor in side-impact crashes at 38 mph-the standards the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) uses to rate safety for most cars. Parents who heard the news were terrified.

The American Academy of Pediatrics was sufficiently concerned about this "alarming news" to get out a press release reiterating the importance of using car safety seats "on every trip for every child," expressing general satisfaction with the rigor of existing safety seat standards, but adding that "safety standards can and should be improved continually" and manufacturers should "strive to enhance the safety of their products on an ongoing basis." (AAP: Infant Passenger Safety: Guidance for Parents, posted 01/05/07 at http://www.aap.org/family/infantpassengersafety.htm.)

The AAP is probably relieved that its response was so restrained. Two weeks after the scary report was made public, Consumer Reports took it all back. When the NHTSA tried to duplicate the Consumer Reports results, the government laboratory found the tests that had been used were simulating a 70-mph side-impact crash, not the 38 mph originally claimed. And when Consumer Reports saw the NHTSA data, the editors retracted the article.