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Casting doubts on Consumer Reports

In the week or so that has passed since the Today Show broke the story about the car seat test results to be published in the upcoming issue of Consumer Reports, our little industry has been in something of a tailspin. Car seat manufacturers have rushed to defend their products and their testing processes, while retailers like us have tried to make sense of the findings. Not to mention all the concerned parents and parents-to-be who are frantic with concern for the safety of their babies.

The story made headlines from coast to coast, but as days have passed, there have been many questions about the validity of the Consumer Reports testing. I have learned a lot reading some of the industry responses. If you’ve been worried about these test results, I recommend you take a look at these two sites.

The folks at Orbit Baby put together a very interesting statement. I think it is valuable on many levels, but especially because the Orbit Infant Seat was not tested, so they do not have a vested interest in disputing this particular issue. But they are also very smart about car seats, having spent the last several years thinking about little else.

The JPMA (Juvenile Products Manufacturing Association) also released a statement that cites many of the same ideas contained in the Orbit statement, but provides sources from NHTSA documentation to support the rebuttal.

The most interesting piece of information is that car seats are tested on a 30mph “sled” because the impact is more severe than 98% of frontal impact crashes in the United States. Designing car seats for higher speeds would actually make the seats much more expensive and much less user-friendly without offering any significant improvement in performance in the vast majority of collisions. In fact, Orbit suggests that car seats designed for high speed crashes could actually be less effective at protecting infants at lower speeds. Who knew? (I didn’t, but did the folks at Consumer Reports??)

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