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NHTSA Urged to Improve Booster Seat Standards

Posted by Christopher Keller | Aug 02, 2021 | 0 Comments

Last month, 18 attorneys general called for federal regulations for side-impact crash-tests for children's car seats. In addition to the regulated standards proposed, they are also demanding an improvement for specific labeling requirements for car seats. Specifically, concerns have been raised about booster seats. CBS News reports, “There is no federal standard for side-impact crash tests, allowing companies to set their own standards while marketing products as being side-impact crash tested.” 

What is the Main Concern for Booster Seats?

A major concern of the attorneys general is the confusing labeling on the booster seats. Without federal regulations in place, manufacturers can merely provide suggestions on when to transition your child from a five-point harness car seat to a booster seat. Typically, the suggestion is based on weight: 40 pounds. At best, a manufacturer will suggest you wait to transition your child to a booster seat until he or she is at least 40 pounds. At worst, a manufacturer will put an unfair spin on the suggestion. Many companies have marketed their transitioning carseats to excite parents into making the change prematurely when the child's safety would actually benefit from staying in the five-point harness seat as long as possible. With many parents now anticipating an early transition, children across the nation are dangerously and prematurely moving into seats that simply do not provide the protection they need. 

Additionally, crash tests on several booster seats have received passing scores even though the crash test dummies have flown out of the seats. 

Attorneys General Send Letter Urging NHTSA to Act Now

On July 13, 2021, a letter was sent to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration including the following statements: 

“Public perception is that child car seats are highly regulated products...Indeed, parents heavily rely upon NHTSA's standards. Most consumers do not realize that the government does not regulate side-impact testing for child car seats. As a result, they may misplace their trust in manufacturers' claims … The failure to promulgate side-impact testing standards unnecessarily endangers children on the road and does a huge disservice to families."

The NHTSA responded with a goal to provide updated regulations by January 2022 and released the following statement: 

"A properly installed, age-and-size appropriate car seat is the best tool we have to protect children in a crash. NHTSA recently announced plans to finalize three important rules to improve car seat safety, installation, and testing. Notably, NHTSA plans to issue a final rule by January 2022 for side-impact performance requirements for child car seats, including a new side-impact test that uses the new side-impact crash test dummy that was finalized in 2020. NHTSA is also working to finalize two other important rules by early 2022 that would reduce early transitions to forward-facing car seats and boosters and would improve correct installation of car seats. We appreciate the interest of the attorneys general in this critical issue and look forward to finalizing these critical child passenger safety regulations."

Florida Law vs. Pediatric Expert Suggestions

Every state has different laws concerning children in car seats. Below, you will find what Florida law technically says about them, and you will also see how it compares to what child experts have to say. 

  • FL Law requires a $60 fine if you violate this rule.
  • FL Law states the best car seat is the one that fits your child perfectly, with an emphasis on age. There is no mention of rear-facing versus forward-facing seats.
      • However, the American Academy of Pediatrics suggests that you keep your child rear-facing until they meet the weight of 40 pounds. They remind us, “Fortunately, car seat manufacturers have created seats that allow children to remain rear-facing until they weigh 40 pounds or more, which means most children can remain rear-facing past their second birthday.”
  • FL Law requires children ages 4-5 to at least be in a booster seat.
      • However, pediatric experts suggest that you keep a 4-5 year old child in a forward-facing car seat until they outgrow the weight and height requirements for their car seat. Basically, you always want to cross-reference your child's weight and height with the information in your owner's manual to make sure you are providing your child with the safest option for his or her body size. 
  • FL Law states that children can legally sit in the front passenger seat upon the age of six. 
      • However, experts recommend that all children 12 years of age and under sit in the backseat. The major concern here is that children in this age range are not built to withstand the intensity of deployed airbags. For a child, an airbag can potentially pose more danger than protection. 
  • FL Law exempts taxis and busses from these guidelines. 
    • But, it is still wise to bring along a car seat or booster if you know you are going to hop in a taxi or a rideshare that day. 

Resources for More Information on Car Seat Safety in Florida

If you or a loved one have been injured or harmed as a result of the negligence or actions of others, you may be able to make a claim for personal injury. This also applies to the proper functioning of your child's car seat or booster seat. Contact a trusted lawyer today at Keller, Melchiorre & Walsh for a quick consultation. 

About the Author

Christopher Keller

Christopher J. Keller is an experienced plaintiff's personal injury attorney.  He concentrates his practice in the areas of Wrongful Death, Auto, Truck, Train & Motorcycle Accidents and Premises Liability.  Before founding Keller, Melchiorre & Walsh, PLLC, Mr. Keller practiced personal injury ...

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