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Side Impact Protection for Children in Maine

car-767377-m.jpgThe National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) recently proposed that side impact testing should be added to the child seat safety standard for children under 40 pounds. In the past, protecting children in crashes has not been a priority for automakers. However, side impact crashes can present serious injuries and harms. If this proposal moves forward, it could have a strong, positive impact for children in Maine and bring child car safety closer to the protection already required for adults.

Over a period of years, NHTSA has found side impact crashes are the second most frequent type of crash. They add up to slightly less than a third of total crashes. Similarly, researchers from the University of California at Irvine have evaluated injury patterns among kids 4-9 years old. They found that many serious injuries sustained by children were the result of side doors getting deformed.

In 1997, the Insurance Institute on Highway Safety discovered that 32% of child deaths under the age of 12 happened because of side impact crashes. When implemented, the NHTSA rule will save more than 18 children per year and cost child seat manufacturers only 50 cents through wider side wings and more padding.

The proposed NHTSA side-impact crash test took 10 years to develop because nobody knew the exact mechanism by which kids were being hurt or killed in side crashes. The test will use a dummy that simulates a 12 month old and a dummy that simulates a 3 year old to ensure that car seats prevent harmful head contact with a vehicle door that intrudes. It is a sled test that mimics a T-bone crash.

In a T-bone crash, the front of a car travels 30 mph and crashes against the side of a car traveling at 15 mph. The goal is to reduce the crash force on a child’s head and chest. Some child seats meet the new rule, but others need more padding, costing seat-makers .50 per seat.

Child seat safety experts are excited about this development. Gary Whitman, a Vice President of Research and Development at ARCCA Inc. called the development “long overdue” and stated that it was a shame that the only way to implement this type of testing was through a Congressional Act. However, he and expert Salena Zellers Schmidtke have agreed that the proposal has flaws. For example, its assumptions about the efficacy of side air curtains for children in booster seats that are hit from the side are problematic.

There is a three-month period during which comments will be taken. The agency will finalize the regulations after reviewing the comments and addressing any issues that are raised there. Comments have also been requested on the issue of whether side-impact requirements should be added to child-restraint systems designed for kids over 40 pounds.

One criticism of the proposal so far is that the test doesn’t adequately consider weight differences. In this case, only the middle of the weight range will be tested. For example, a 32 lb. dummy is used to test child restraints for 22-40 lb. kids. This weight range issue has been raised over the past few decades.

Manufacturers are going to have up to three years to change their products to meet the new requirements.The agency believes the proposal will save five lives and stop 64 injuries every year once implemented. One child safety expert commented that once it is implemented, the United States will have the safest car seats in the world.

If you or a loved one is hurt by a driver’s negligence or a defectively designed car or carseat, you may need the help of an experienced personal injury attorney to help recover the compensation you deserve. At Briggs & Wholey, our knowledgeable attorneys are available to answer any questions you may have. To schedule a free consultation with an experienced advocate, please contact Briggs & Wholey, LLC at (888) 596-1099 or through our website today.

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Pedestrian Safety Tips in Maine, Maine Personal Injury Lawyers Blog, December 2, 2013

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