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NHTSA introduces new crash test dummy: A 3-year-old

When you tuck your child into a car safety seat, you expect it to provide significant protection in a crash. Unfortunately, in the past, the tests for how crashes would affect small children were of limited value because the crash test dummy was too large.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) recently introduced a new crash test dummy in an effort to address the problem. The dummy, which represents a 3-year-old child, was specifically designed for the testing of child car seats in side-impact crashes.

This is especially important because side-impact crashes can be very dangerous for small children, and child car seats are meant to reduce the forces involved. The new dummy will help safety engineers to understand those forces and how they affect child-size bodies.

The old dummy was problematic

The new, 3-year-old dummy has been needed for some time. In 2015, Consumer Reports pointed out that much more needed to be done to improve side-impact crash testing. The dummy used to represent a small child at that time was so large that it exceeded the height limit on most car safety seats. Its head extended above the side bolsters that are meant to protect it, and the head contains the instrumentation that measures the impact.

According to Consumer Reports, the fact that the dummy’s head extended above the car seats’ shell meant that testers couldn’t measure the seats’ side-impact protection. Furthermore, tests with the large dummy tended to underestimate the potential injuries.

All in all, Consumer Reports concluded that the dummy’s size and limited potential for structural failure made the side-impact tests using the dummy to be of little value. Consumer Reports shared these findings with NHTSA in 2015.

How can you keep your child safe?

First, familiarize yourself with the four major types of child restraint systems and how they work. These include:

  • Rear-facing child seats
  • Forward-facing child seats
  • Booster seats
  • Seat belts

Next, make sure that your car seat is installed correctly. According to NHTSA, many parents believe they have properly installed their seats but almost half of them are wrong. Drop by a police or fire station for a check of whether your seat is installed properly.

If your child is in a rear-facing seat, don’t try to “graduate” them to a forward-facing seat too soon. The rear-facing seat is the most protective option, so keep your child in that seat until they outgrow the height and weight limits of the seat. Similarly, keep your child in the forward-facing seat until they fully outgrow it.

Register your car seat with the manufacturer. This ensures that you will receive notice if the car seat is recalled.

Your child’s life is precious. Take the time to understand how child car seats work and use them properly to keep your child as safe as possible.

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