• 55°

Rules change for child safety seats

Child safety seat regulations changed recently and that means automobile owners should be aware – not only of the new rules, but of the safety such rules provide, Ohio Highway Patrol officials said.

Monday, November 08, 1999

Child safety seat regulations changed recently and that means automobile owners should be aware – not only of the new rules, but of the safety such rules provide, Ohio Highway Patrol officials said.

The first in the federal government’s three-year series of steps to improve child car-seat safety began Sept. 1.

Stricter head protection standards went into effect, meaning that most new seats now will have to be equipped with a tether strap that anchors the top of the seat more securely so children are thrown about less in a crash.

"We encourage people to use child restraining safety seats as designated by the (car’s) manufacturer," said Lt. Jim Coleman, Ironton post commander.

"When they change the standards, drivers may need to look to see if their seats are outdated," Coleman said.

The change is the first phase of a federal plan to create a universal, easy-to-use children’s seating system. The goal is to eliminate confusion among parents that results in incorrect installation of up to 80 percent of car seats.

Once all autos and seats have the new system, the government estimates up to 50 lives will be saved and 3,000 injuries prevented each year.

Coleman understands the predictions firsthand, having witnessed many accidents where car seats were not in use.

"Many of them would have come back out with limited injuries," he said. "Picture yourself driving down the road at 55 miles per hour, all the passengers are traveling at 55 and if that vehicle comes to a stop, then an unbuckled child will continue at 55 imagine what would happen to a 25 pound sack of potatoes."

But education programs, linked with new regulations like those imposed this year are paying off, Coleman said.

Troopers are seeing fewer child safety seat violations, such as children standing up in the seats, he said.

Parents should not abandon the hundreds of thousands of child seats already are in use, government officials say. Seat manufacturers and automakers are offering kits to add the tethers and new attachment points to existing seats and cars for parents who want them.

Experts believe existing seats are safe when installed properly, but that the new regulations are needed to simplify that task.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, the federal agency issuing the new regulations, also is requiring that automakers do their part by beginning to equip new cars with anchor points for the top tether straps.

In most sedans, the anchors will be on the shelf between the rear seat and rear window. In minivans, the anchors will be on the floor behind the seat. Eighty percent of vehicles sold in the United States for the 2000 model year must have the anchors, with the percentage increasing in succeeding years.

By Sept. 1, 2002, car seat makers also must add two more straps to attach the seat bottom to a car without using its seat belt system. Automakers must equip all new vehicles with standardized attachment points for both the top and bottom straps by that date as well.

Ford Motor Co. plans to equip all its 2000 models with the top tether mounts. Its Windstar and new Focus models also will come with the lower mounts. A government official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said Volkswagen may also get a head start by announcing that all three attachment points will be standard equipment on its 2000 model year Beetles.

Child seats now cost from $40 to $220. The highway safety administration, in a study last year, estimated that a universal latching system would increase the cost by $10 to $65 per seat.

The safety administration said people with questions about the new system should call their seat’s manufacturer, the maker of their automobile or NHTSA’s auto safety hot line at 888-DASH-2-DOT.

Information is also available via the Internet at www.nhtsa.dot.gov/people/injury/childps.

– The Associated Press contributed to this report.