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Government Agency Moves to Boost Child Safety in New Side Crash Tests on Seats


There are few sadder accidents than those involving children and South Carolina has the unfortunate distinction of having a child auto accident injury rate of twice the national average.

The issue is being tackled by the U.S. Department of Transportation's National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) which proposed upgrades to the federal motor vehicle safety standard for child-restraint systems last month with the aim of ensuring child passengers are better protected in side crashes.

A press release from the NHTSA said the proposed upgrades will include a first-ever side impact test for car seats sold in the U.S. that are designed for children weighing up to 40 pounds.

"As a father of two, I know the peace of mind this proposed test will give parents," Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx said in the recent announcement. "We all want to make sure our children's car seats are as safe as possible, and today's proposal will give parents and car-seat makers important new data on how car seats perform in side crashes."

The side-impact vehicle crash is intended to add a new dimension to safety testing. Car seat manufacturers must demonstrate they can safely restrain a child by preventing the child's head coming into contact with an intruding vehicle door and reducing the crash forces transmitted to the child's head and chest. NHTSA believes the move would save five lives and prevent 64 injuries annually.

"Car seats are an essential tool for keeping young children safe in vehicles and have a proven track record of saving lives," NHTSA Acting Administrator David Friedman said. "We continue to build on our extensive child seat safety program by adding side-impact crash protection for the first time."

The tests would take place in a sled test that simulates a "T-bone" crash, in which the front of a vehicle traveling at 30 mph hits the side of a small passenger vehicle traveling at 15 mph. The sled test is revolutionary in that it is the first of its kind in the world being proposed for regulation, as it "simulates both the acceleration of the struck vehicle and the vehicle door crushing toward the car seat," the NHTSA states.

As well as using its existing 12-month-old child dummy, the proposed test will test out crash scenarios on a newly developed side-impact dummy representing a 3-year-old child. The agency is putting forward a 3-year timeframe for car-seat manufacturers to make any the changes they will need to bring in to meet the proposed requirements upon final rule publication.

The agency's Notice of Proposed Rulemaking has been published in the Federal Register, allowing members of the public to have the opportunity to comment on the proposal for 90 days.

South Carolina has a poor record for child safety in automobiles. Recently, Sen. Thomas Alexander, R-Oconee, said he would draw up a bill based on recommendations of the American Academy of Pediatrics, stated a report by WLTX in Columbia.

The bill in the Senate would require children to ride in the back seats of cars and other vehicles, until they become teenagers and strengthen car seat rules.

At present, children are required to use a car seat or booster seat until they're 5. The bill would raise that age to seven. It would also require children to stay in rear-facing car seats until they're two years old instead of one, or until they've outgrown the seat manufacturer's height or its weight limit

In South Carolina, the number of people who are injured or killed in car crashes is twice the national rate, according to Meghan Branham of the Children's Trust of South Carolina. More than half the children who are killed in car crashes in South Carolina are not protected by any kind of seat belt or restraint.

Branham worked with Alexander, to draft his bill which was based on recommendations of the American Academy of Pediatrics.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration provides a list of locations that provide a free inspection of child car seats.

At the Masella Law Firm we represent many children who have been hurt in car crashes. If your child has been injured due to the fault of another driver call our Columbia, SC car accident lawyers at 803.748.9990.

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