Tips & Advice on Car Seats

Advice from Traffic Safety Projects' Joe Colella

Are there any recommendations for parents who need to move their children into a stage two car seat before the new standards are released & products hit the shelves? That is a good question.

The referenced standard is a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM). NHTSA will accept input from manufacturers and the public on both this and the November 2013 NPRM on the new side impact test dummy. Then they are likely to make revisions and issue a Final Rule – and there will be a period before the rule goes into effect. It will be at least a few years before there is a standard that all new car seats must meet.

That said, most major manufacturers are voluntarily testing their latest car seats for some level of side impact protection – and there are many crash success stories already. A few things happened around 2007 that made side-impact crash testing an important focal point, and this voluntary testing has become even more aggressive for 7 years. Many car seat models are labeled as side-impact tested, side-impact protective and the like.


That’s enough context. I’ll give you my answer:

  1. Get a car seat that fits your child properly, can be secured correctly in YOUR car(s), and that you are comfortable using. You may want to consider one that has reasonably high weight and height limits so your child has the option of staying in them longer before switching to the next car seat level. Be aware that a higher price does NOT necessarily mean that a car seat will perform better, so don’t use price as your only indicator of safety.
  2. Once you have identified a few possibilities, do some research. As the article states, “Acting NHTSA Administrator David Friedman told reporters that many existing child seats would already meet the new rule…” Many manufacturers describe their own enhanced safety features and voluntary testing on their websites. To make it a little easier, here is a list of U.S. manufacturers (PDF), along with their websites and customer service phone numbers.
  3. Use the car seat consistently and correctly. NHTSA states that rear-facing seats are 71% effective at saving lives and that forward-facing seats are 54% effective at the same. Those numbers are based on real-world performance in ALL types of crashes (side-impacts included). They are also based on real-world use, whether correct or incorrect. Consistent and CORRECT use dramatically improves the chances that a child will be on the “saved” side of those percentages.
  4. Don’t be in a hurry to “graduate” your child to the next car seat level, and always secure children in a rear vehicle seat. Access some good parent information from the American Academy of Pediatrics.