Child car seats have come a long way since Consumer Reports first crash-tested them for the August 1972 issue of Consumer Reports magazine, when we rated 12 out of 15 of them as Not Acceptable. Between 1972 and 1977, child seats were tested four times, which made Consumer Reports the only publication at the time that regularly crash-tested these seats and reported the results to both consumers and the government. The day after the organization released its 1974 report, the government proposed a stronger child-restraint standard. As of January 1, 1981, all manufacturers of child seats had to certify that their seats passed a dynamic crash test in compliance with government safety standards.
Consumer Reports continues its efforts to improve the marketplace and has developed a new test protocol for crash-testing child seats. As part of a rigorous, two and a half year process to develop the new test, we extensively studied published research on pediatric biomechanics and child-injury patterns in vehicle crashes. We also analyzed crash-test videos and data from crashes conducted by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) and Transport Canada, and where appropriate, we conferred with other child passenger safety and automotive safety experts. We also reviewed our protocol with Dr. Priya Prasad, an outside consultant who is a respected expert in vehicle safety and injury biomechanics, with 40 years of experience.
As part of our mission, we are always looking to improve the way we serve consumers by conducting research and developing testing that help them make better choices. As an independent, non-profit consumer group that accepts neither advertising nor corporate donations, Consumer Reports uses that research to provide consumers with real-world experience and expert advice, free of outside influences. We also purchase the seats we test from retail markets, just as consumers do, rather than accepting free samples from manufacturers. That way we ensure that we’re testing the same products consumers get when they purchase them.
Our latest infant seat ratings are based on tests conducted according to our new crash protocol at a contracted outside lab. We also performed in-house testing of both ease-of-use and fit-to-vehicle assessments on each seat. We combined the results of those three tests to determine the overall rating for each car seat, giving more weight to the combined scores of the ease-of-use and fit-to-vehicle testing than to the crash performance testing because optimal crash protection cannot be expected without proper use and secure installation.