NHTSA Announces Major Improvements to Child Passenger Safety
During 2020’s Child Passenger Safety Week recently, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) released important updates related to improved safety measures and testing for child restraint systems in motor vehicles. The updates include information about new child crash test dummies and proposed testing requirements that reflect more recent changes to modern vehicles.
Advantages of New Q3s Crash Test Dummy
The NHTSA’s new crash test dummy is known as the Q3s. The Q3s dummy is intended to represent a 3-year-old child. It is the first child-sized dummy specifically designed for testing the safety of child restraints in side-impact collisions. With these more realistic dummies, researchers will be able to obtain more accurate data about the effects of side-impact car crashes on children.
Q3s dummies are “instrumented” dummies with realistic heads, necks, shoulders, spines, abdomens, pelvises, and other relevant body parts. The Q3s dummies have a seated height of approximately 22 inches and weigh 32 pounds, measurements that represent the average American 3-year-old.
In addition to the improved testing capabilities afforded by these new dummies, the NHTSA also issued new regulations to establish design and performance standards for the Q3s. This way, new Q3s dummies manufactured to meet approved standards “will be uniform in their design, construction, and response to impact forces.”
Proposed Upgrades for Child Restraint System Tests
The NHTSA also proposed multiple upgrades to the current child restraint system test procedures in the U.S. The suggested improvements aim to make sure future testing and safety recommendations are more representative of real-world child seat and restraint usage in modern American cars.
The NHTSA’s proposals include:
- A mandate that would require labels on child car seats to encourage parents of young children to keep their children in rear-facing child seats until their children outgrow the seats’ specified rear-facing weight and height limits
- Additional flexibility for child seat labeling requirements, which could provide more useful information to the public about the safe use of child restraints
- Providing additional opportunities for parents and other caregivers to register their child car seats with the NHTSA so they can receive timely product safety and recall information
- Updating the list of approved child seats used by the NHTSA for safety testing, since the current list has not been updated since 2008, and many models on the list are no longer on the market
The NHTSA encourages all parents and caregivers to ensure their children’s car seats and restraints are safe, effective, and installed appropriately. The agency notes that while most parents and guardians believe their child’s car seat is fine, 46 percent of child restraints in modern vehicles have actually been installed incorrectly.
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