In February, the nonprofit newsroom ProPublica issued a report on Evenflo, the maker of the “Big Kid” booster seat. It found that the company had created a side-impact crash test for the booster seat that was virtually impossible to fail. Nevertheless, the booster seat did fail the test, but Evenflo continued to market the seat as “side-impact tested.”
You can read ProPublica’s original report for more information. Now, however, a congressional subcommittee has followed up on whether other manufacturers have engaged in deceptive advertising around booster seats’ safety in side-impact crashes.
One thing to know is that Congress ordered the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) to enact formal side-impact crash tests for children’s car seats. NHTSA has yet to do this.
Therefore, car seat manufacturers are under no obligation to perform side-impact crash tests in order to sell in the U.S.
Are side-impact crashes a serious danger?
Yes. They are somewhat less common than head-on collisions, but they still account for about 25% of all traffic fatalities among children under 15 in the U.S. Side-impact crashes can be even more dangerous than head-on collisions because most vehicles do not have airbags that deploy in side-impact collisions. There’s just the door and the frame of the vehicle to protect occupants.
House subcommittee investigates
ProPublica’s report about the problem with Evenflo’s “Big Kid” booster seat was based in part on access to internal documents. The nonprofit did not have access to other manufacturers’ internal documents.
The U.S. House Committee on Oversight and Reform’s Subcommittee on Economic and Consumer Policy, however, found evidence that many manufacturers may have misled the public about side-impact crash safety.
In its report, the subcommittee stated that car seat manufacturers have “endangered the lives of millions of American children and misled consumers about the safety of booster seats.”
“Our investigation revealed that booster seat manufacturers are more interested in leading parents to believe that their products are safe rather than ensuring that they actually are,” said the chair of the subcommittee.
The subcommittee has now officially requested that federal regulators, including the Federal Trade Commission, investigate whether the makers of booster seats have misled the public about their safety in side-impact crashes. It also urged state attorneys general to be on the lookout for potential violations of state consumer protection laws.
Is your child’s booster seat affected?
It’s not just Evenflo. Manufacturers including Graco, Britax, Dorel Juvenile, KidsEmbrace and Artsana are accused of engaging in deceptive marketing around the issue of side-impact safety.
The reality is, your child may not be fully protected in a side-impact crash even if your car seat’s manufacturer claims they would be.