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CU supports “Ease of Use” Child Safety Seat Ratings

R. David Pittle Remarks for
NHTSA Press Conference
New Child Restraint Ease of Use Ratings
Wednesday, June 11th, 2003

Thank you Dr. Runge for both affording us the opportunity to be here and for the work you and your staff have done on improving the safety of child seats with these new ratings.
The safety of children riding in cars is a paramount issue for all parents. We have seen first-hand, through our tests at Consumers Union, that ease of use is a critical factor in the efficacy of a child safety seat. And we have seen that putting a child in a car seat – properly – provides critical protection for our littlest and most vulnerable consumers. The presence of these ratings is good news for parents who are always looking for better information to help them make a more informed purchasing decision when it comes to selecting a child safety seat.
Helping consumers make informed choices through comparative product testing and ratings is a cornerstone of the work we do at Consumers Union, the independent, nonprofit publisher of Consumer Reports magazine. Consumers Union has a long history on child safety and the evaluation of child restraints. We have been testing child safety seats since the early 1970s and regularly reporting the results to consumers. Nearly a decade before manufacturers had to certify that their seats passed crash tests, Consumers Union was crash testing child restraints and pushing for more stringent federal standards. Today Consumers Union regularly evaluates child seats for their crash protection, how easy they are to use, and how easy they are to install in various types of vehicles, including sedans, SUVs, and 2-door vehicles.
In addition to these child restraint ratings, every vehicle we test at our 327-acre test facility in East Haddam, Connecticut is evaluated for how easy it is to install a child seat in the car. CU engineers install rear-facing infant and convertible child restraints using both the LATCH system and the car seat belts in every possible position and in every appropriate seating location of the vehicle. Our tests underscore how important it is for the vehicles and the child restraints to be compatible to ensure maximum protection for the child and we believe that our ratings are a valuable supplement to the work NHTSA is currently performing.
We are very pleased to hear from Dr. Runge that NHTSA will be meeting with vehicle and child restraint manufacturers to address some of the vehicle compatibility issues Consumers Union and others have found in their tests of new LATCH seats. Like Consumers Union, NHTSA knows first-hand the value of comparative ratings in improving the safety of consumer products. The NCAP crash-testing program has been a very successful tool in raising the bar for vehicle safety. We hope this program enjoys similar success and we looking forward to working with all of you to meet our common goal-the increased safety of children in more user-friendly car seats.
Finally, I want to underscore a message to all parents that Dr. Runge emphasized: Be sure to place your child in a restraint whenever your travelling, no matter where you are going and no matter how long the trip.
Thank You.
NHTSA Announcement of “Ease of Use” Child Safety Seat Ratings