Consumer Reports magazine announced Wednesday that its botched investigation into infant car seats was the result of a major misunderstanding between the magazine and the laboratory that conducted the tests.
The complete report of the magazine’s investigation into the matter may be read on the magazine’s Web site.
Test findings released in January said that most brands of infant car seats “failed disastrously” when tested under slightly higher speeds. The magazine retracted the article within days after the National Highway Safety Transportation Administration pointed out that there were some basic flaws in the crash impact tests, that the magazine’s investigators had miscalculated the speeds at which the simulated crashes occurred.
According to the report, Consumer Reports wanted to test the effect of a 38-mph side-impact crash on the car seats. Federal regulators test cars at that speed, which is why the magazine picked that rate of speed to test the car seats.
But in the event of such a crash, most of the momentum is absorbed by the vehicle that is struck and the struck car moves away at about half the impact speed. But the lab tested the car seats as if they moved off at 38 mph. For that to occur, the crash must have occurred at a much higher rate of speed.
Consumer Reports’ earlier article only recommended two out of 12 car seats that were tested.
I now understand the theory behind testing a 38 mph. However, I much prefer the test as ran, an approximate 76 mph side-impact. Would you prefer your child to be in a seat that will perform well at 38 mph or 76 mph? Although Consumer Reports’ intention was to test the seats in a 38-mph equivalent, their 76-mph equivalent test I think tells us more about safe seats than the test that they intended to perform.
I’d prefer my granddaughter in one of the seats that passed the 76-mph test.
I do applaud the magazine for not only admitting its error, but for conducting a thorough investigation that pinpoints the error. Millions of people depend on Consumer Reports to make informed choices regarding the niceties and the necessitates of life, including a car seat for my grandmother.
In three decades of handling over a thousand auto accidents, I am not aware of any injuries to children that were properly restrained in car seats in anything other than major impact or rollover accidents. Bottom line, buckle up. Your kids in quality car seats and you with your seat belt. Seat belts do save lives. One saved mine.