A baby walker that's Not Acceptable

Consumer Reports News: December 08, 2006 12:20 PM

Baby walkers are supposed to be designed so they don't allow your child to topple down the stairs. To that end, most manufacturers use friction strips on the bottom of the walker that act as a brake when the leading wheels drop over the edge of a stair.

But even with bottom friction strips, the Kolcraft Tiny Steps model 14565 failed our test for brake performance, which followed ASTM-International's safety standard for infant walkers. Because of the design of this model, the friction strips do not work properly and three samples we tested fell over the edge of simulated stairs. Yet, this model is certified by the Juvenile Products Manufacturer's Association to meet the standard.

We have judged this model Not Acceptable and urge the manufacturer and the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) to recall the walker.

A similar model, the Kolcraft Tiny Steps 2-in-1 model 14570, passes the test.

Kolcraft officials told us that the 14565 was discontinued as of last year and that the 14570 is the current model. But our secret shoppers had no problem buying the 14565 at retail, and the manufacturing date on two of the three samples indicate that it was being produced as recently as October of this year. The differences between the failing and passing model are subtle so you must look carefully for the model number.

If you have stairs in your home and you own a Kolcraft 14565 walker, we recommend that you stop using it. If the walker is recalled, you will likely be able to exchange it or get a refund. We'll keep you posted on the status of a recall.

Baby walker injuries used to be rampant, especially falls down stairs. The problem was so serious that baby walkers were banned altogether in Canada. In 1992, the CPSC estimated that 25,700 children younger than 15 months were treated in U.S. emergency rooms for injuries associated with baby walkers. By 2003, those injuries had declined by 88 percent, in large part because of the braking requirements in the ASTM safety standard. (Another reason is that stationary activity centers became increasingly popular, taking some of the market.)

Last year, the CPSC sent out a letter to all manufacturers, importers, and retailers of baby walkers stating that failure to comply with the ASTM standard would prompt the CPSC to seek a recall of the products. We hope they are true to their word.

Marc Perton

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