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The Car Seat Lady responds to Consumer Reports’ April 2014 Infant Car Seat Ratings

Posted in: Blog, Response to Media

We’ve struggled to make sense of Consumer Reports’ infant seat ratings released last week – and how to explain why we disagree with many of their conclusions.

It boils down to this: their findings often differed with our combined 55 years experience in the field installing more than 25,000 car seats in nearly every vehicle on the road. In 2013 alone, the 3 of us who make up The Car Seat Lady helped parents install more than 2,000 car seats – including hundreds of the infant seats they evaluated – and succeeded in achieving secure installations where their ratings suggest we would have failed, and vice versa.

We’ll have a more thorough analysis of their ratings and where we agree and disagree coming soon, but in the meantime wanted to share these thoughts.

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  1. Don’t go out and buy a new seat. You can keep your baby well protected by making sure your seat is installed properly and that your baby is secured properly in the seat. Since 90% of all car seats aren’t used properly, don’t assume you’re doing it right; get the installation checked by someone trained.
  2. Our top 2 most-recommended seats have not changed. We love them because:

So… what are The Car Seat Lady’s top 2 most-recommended rear-facing-only seats?

#1 is the Cybex Aton2. We love this seat and use it for our own babies & grandbabies. We haven’t found the installation trouble that Consumer Reports (CR) encountered – and we’ve installed hundreds of the Cybex seats… many more than CR has. It is one of the few US seats to offer a load leg on the base – a safety feature that significantly decreases head & neck forces. The straps are much harder to tighten on the baby with the AtonQ… which is why we prefer the 2. The Aton2 is super compact – taking up 4 inches less room into the front seat than most other infant seats.

#2 is the Graco SnugRide 35 with Classic Connect (not the Click Connect or any other number). We have also used this seat for some of our babies. We love that, like the Cybex, this Graco has a European belt path for installing the carrier without the base, as shown here in this video and discussed on pages 35-36 of the manual. Please note that the Click Connect seats do NOT have a European belt path… which is one of the reasons we don’t recommend these seats. You can find the 35 Classic Connect here or here.

Now, onto our thoughts about the Consumer Reports ratings:

With time and resources limited, the focus should be where the need is greatest. Making infant seats safer in frontal crashes, as CR has set out to do, is not where the need is greatest.

Few infants die in car crashes in the US. 76 died in 2010. Older kids in car seats & boosters have higher injury & death rates in car crashes – so the initial focus should be on the older kids, not infants who are the best protected people in the entire car.

More infants are injured in their car seats OUT of the car than in a car crash (estimated 7.3K vs 5.5K in 2010) – with drops and falls being the most common mechanism of injury, and head injuries being the most frequent injury types. Therefore, if the goal is making infants safer in car seats, the initial focus should be on keeping them safe in the seats when they are used out of the car.

Side impacts make up 40% of the crashes in which a child ages 0-8 dies – so it’s puzzling why CR focused only on frontal crashes…. although perhaps the CR debacle from 2007 (where CR created their own side impact crash test, published their findings that every car seat on the market was essentially a death trap for kids, and then a week later retracted the entire article after realizing they had totally messed up their crash testing–the car seats were fine, their testing methods weren’t) is why they didn’t do any side impact testing this time.

With an astronomically high misuse rate (~90%) the focus should be on identifying and highlighting specific design features that enhance ease of, and likelihood of, proper use. While CR focused on ease of use, their findings are all the more puzzling to us as nearly every seat with a built-in locking device for the seat belt (a feature known to increase the chance of a proper installation) received negative comments from CR about some aspect of this device – while seats without such devices were not penalized for lacking this ease-of-use feature.

This isn’t the first time we’ve been concerned by CR’s findings because of:

Inconsistencies within their own ratings

Inconsistencies between their assessments and our experience with these seats

Inaccuracies

Incomplete Evaluation

Lack of Clarity and Transparency

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