Safety Archive

News: Acura Earns Highest Safety Ratings on ALL 2015 models. Two Dorel Boosters Re-Evaluated by IIHS.


Acura Safety v3.0We commend Acura for achieving top overall ratings from the IIHS and NHTSA on every current model!  We awarded the Acura MDX honors as the safest 2015 SUV in a recent article, and would like to acknowledge vehicle manufacturers that place an emphasis on safety.  Acura claims to be the first and only auto manufacturer to earn a 5-star Overall vehicle score from the NHTSA NCAP program, AND a Top Safety Pick+ rating from the IIHS across its entire 2015 model line (IIHS TSP+ rating when equipped with collision mitigation braking systems).  Congrats!

CarseatBlog emphasizes crash test ratings and advanced safety features in all our auto reviews.  We strongly encourage other manufacturers to put safety first and to make crash test ratings a top priority for ALL vehicles, as Acura has done.  To put it simply, an NHTSA “5-star” overall rating and IIHS “Top Safety Pick” rating is something every buyer should require in a vehicle.  No new vehicles today should earn anything less than a “4-star” rating from the NHTSA or less than an “Acceptable” rating from the IIHS in any individual crash test result.  Period.

We also encourage all auto makers to equip advanced crash avoidance technologies as standard whenever possible, especially on top trim levels and luxury vehicles.  On economy models and lower trim levels, these features should be readily available in a relatively low cost options package.  All too often, collision mitigation braking systems necessary to qualify for the IIHS Top Safety Pick “+” aware are a hard-to-find option and only on the most expensive trim level.  Then you must tack on thousands of dollars more for a safety technology package, if you can even find one at all on dealer’s lots!  That type of obsolete marketing is NOT putting customers and safety first.


booster_safety-1st_summit-65In other news, the IIHS is correcting two “BEST BET” booster recommendations from 2014.  The Eddie Bauer Deluxe Highback 65 and Safety 1st Summit 65 were given the top rating in error.  The revised rating is “Not Recommended”.  According to the IIHS:

The concern about the Eddie Bauer Deluxe Highback 65 and Safety 1st Summit 65, both manufactured by Dorel Juvenile, is that while the shoulder belt crosses the child’s body at the middle of the shoulder, it is positioned too far forward. In that position, the shoulder belt would be less effective in a crash.

The IIHS states that these models were inadvertently evaluated to the protocol used prior to 2014.  They also note that these ratings only apply to these models in booster mode, and DO NOT apply when used with the 5-point harness system.  Below, you can see the difference between a Good (left) and Poor (right) shoulder belt fit in regard to contact at the shoulder (courtesy of IIHS):

Booster-GOOD-FIT-IIHS (00000002) Booster-POOR-FIT-IIHS

Consumer Reports Identifies Potential Safety Issue with Recaro Performance RIDE Convertible Seats


Recaro Performance Ride convertibleToday Consumer Reports released information on a safety issue they identified during testing of the Recaro Performance RIDE convertible. In crash tests using their new test protocol, the harness support hardware in the back of the Performance RIDE shell broke. This allowed the harness to pull through the seatback and loosen as the dummy moved forward. This structural failure occurred in three of four Performance RIDE tests using the 35 lb 3-year-old dummy. In all three cases, the seat was installed forward-facing on the test sled using LATCH (lower anchors and tether).

According to Consumer Reports:

The potential risk of a harness that loosens in an actual vehicle crash would be the increased forward movement of the head and added potential for a child’s head to contact some surface in the vehicle interior. There also is increased risk for the child to be ejected from the seat, and for the harness to no longer secure the child for any secondary or subsequent impacts or events.

Read the full article here: Structural Weakness Found in Recaro Performance RIDE Child Seat

I think it goes without saying that we take carseat safety very seriously around here and while these findings are concerning (especially when you consider that these same seats were recently recalled for unrelated performance issues) we want to make sure that Performance RIDE owners have a full understanding of what is going on so they can decide for themselves what action, if any, they should take.

First and foremost, it’s important to know that the new Consumer Reports carseat crash test was developed to be more rigorous than federal standards. CR realizes that not all carseats are created equal even though they should all meet the basic safety standards of FMVSS 213. Therefore, CR set out to develop a test to try to determine which carseats provide extra levels of protection beyond the standards already established by NHTSA. The CR test is very different from the FMVSS 213 tests that all child restraints are expected to pass in this country.

With that said…

Since this is a new and more stringent test, we don’t automatically think that all seats that earn a “BASIC” rating from CR are unsafe in some way. On the other hand, no other convertible seats tested by CR using the new crash test protocol had these specific issues with the 3-year old dummy that weighs 35 pounds. Now, we are fully aware of the differences between running a test at 27-30 mph (FMVSS 213 speed) and running it at 35 mph (NCAP/CR TEST speed) but the fact that these convertible seats are rated up to 65 pounds forward-facing and yet may possibly experience issues with the 3-year-old dummy doesn’t exactly inspire confidence.

CR reports that the Performance RIDE had similar failures with the 6-year-old, 52 pound dummy in their test, installed using the lap/shoulder seatbelt and tether.  Four other convertibles of the 25 tested also failed with the larger dummy, though this is a much more extreme test in their new, higher speed protocol.  Also, most Recaro Performance RIDE and ProRIDE convertibles were recently recalled for failing to meet certain FMVSS 213 performance standards. It was a failure unrelated to the issue CR encountered and Recaro is sending a recall remedy to all owners of recalled seats but it was a performance failure nonetheless and it affected most of the convertible seats Recaro had made in the last 5 years.

Our advice:

If you are currently using a Recaro Performance RIDE carseat in the rear-facing position you don’t have any cause for concern at the moment since both the recent recall and the concerns raised by CR are related to issues that may potentially occur when the seat is used forward-facing.

If you are currently using a Recaro Performance RIDE carseat in the forward-facing position, fix your tether strap with the recall kit if your seat has been recalled and continue to monitor the blog for further updates, if any, regarding your carseat.  This issue reported by CR is not a second, new recall for your seat and there have been no public complaints made to NHTSA regarding this issue. As always, if your child is under 40 pounds and still fits in the rear-facing position, turn the seat rear-facing for optimum protection. Forward-facing, make sure the installation is tight and the harness is snug and continue to use it with caution until we learn more.  If your child no longer fits within the rear-facing limits, please consider another convertible or forward-facing carseat from our Recommended Carseats list.


Recaro’s Response to Consumer Reports:

“The Recaro Performance RIDE convertible car seat has saved the lives of many children involved in a car crash and has never experienced a field failure after being in the marketplace for over five years. Recaro tests to meet and exceed all National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) crash test requirements. The research by Consumer Reports was conducted with a crash test at 40 percent more energy at its peak than current NHTSA standards. We want to reassure our consumers that we take all aspects of a child’s safety seriously and will examine these findings closely. Recaro appreciates Consumer Reports’ interest in child passenger safety.”

For more info see: New Crash Protection Ratings and Methods from Consumer Reports

Safest Affordable Used Cars for Teens and Families


Teen rdriversMany families put a high priority on vehicle safety for their kids.  Unfortunately, for various valid reasons, many are not able to go out and buy a brand new car with the latest safety features.  Perhaps others are buying a car for a teen or college student and want something safe, but don’t want them wrecking even a newer car!  Last year, the IIHS recently evaluated hundreds of cars to produce a list of models recommended for teens and recently updated the Safe and Affordable Used Vehicle Recommendations for Teens list for 2015.

I have somewhat different criteria for my teen driver.  For example, while I also exclude the smallest sub-compact and “micro” vehicles, I have no issue with my teen driving a compact sedan if it is close to 3,000 lbs., as long is it has great crash test results.  While compact cars do give up a little in terms of weight in a frontal crash, they are generally more maneuverable and easier to handle and park.  That’s a big deal for new drivers.  Not to mention the lower cost up front and for gasoline!  I am also more concerned about having top results in all the actual crash tests, including the new IIHS small overlap test, and less concerned about certain other results.

Unfortunately, the IIHS excludes compact sedans, even top models with many safety features and decent all-around crash test scores, including their own small overlap test.  In fact, some models they recommend do poorly in this newer test.  Most of their recommendations are well over $10,000.


My Requirements?

  1. 2011 or newer.  That means a much greater chance of finding critical safety features like stability control and side curtain airbags.  Plus this is the year the NHTSA began crash testing with its newer crash test system that doesn’t compare to models before 2011.
  2. Good visibility and handling.
  3. Stability control and side-curtain airbags.
  4. 4-star or better NHTSA overall rating
  5. No “Marginal” or “Poor” IIHS crash test results in ANY test, including the newer small overlap test
  6. No “2-star” or “1-star” ratings in any individual NHTSA crash test or rollover rating.
  7. Around $10,000 or less to buy (or lease over 3 years).
  8. No minicars, sub-compacts or any model below 2,750lbs.  Weight is a bad thing on roads, I know.  More mass means more kinetic energy and more wasted fuel.  But when the other guy is driving a 5,000 lb. truck, the smallest cars become splatter.  On the flip side, smaller cars are easier to drive and generally offer better handling as well.


What Can You Learn from an Oversized Dummy?


Not much, apparently. At least not in this case.

Side-Impact Test Q3 in RFO

Photo Credit: Consumer Reports

Recent feasibility testing of NHTSA’s proposed side-impact test, conducted by Consumer Reports, has found that the Q3 side-impact test dummy isn’t useful in evaluating the protection offered by rear-facing only seats (aka infant carseats). The reason? This dummy, which is meant to be the size of an average 3-year-old, is too big to fit in these seats. The head of the Q3 dummy extends beyond the protective confines of the shell. Clearly that’s bad from an injury risk standpoint. You never want the top of a child’s head to extend above the top of a rear-facing carseat. And you would think that this would translate into very high injury readings in the crash testing – but they actually found the opposite result. What the… ????

“Our tests showed that when the dummy’s head extended beyond the shell portion of the infant seat, the injury data also tended to be lower—despite the greater injury risk. Therefore, based on this data, we concluded that side-impact protection on these seats might be overrated. This is because, while the design would not actually provide improved impact safety, the data would be skewed by allowing for greater head excursion outside of the shell.”

Read the full article here:  More Change Needed for Car Seat Side-Impact Protection

Based on their findings, we agree with Consumer Reports that using the Q3 dummy in NHTSA’s proposed Side-Impact Test would be of little value in determining the protection offered by rear-facing only infant seats. Q3 is well-suited to test convertible seats in the rear-facing position but a smaller dummy that is similarly instrumented should be utilized to appropriately gauge the SIP provided by rear-facing only child restraints. We never want to unintentionally create a situation where manufacturers are “designing for the test” at the expense of performance in real world side-impact crashes.

To learn more about NHTSA’s proposed Side-Impact Test see our comprehensive article here:  NHTSA’s Proposed Side-Impact Testing Standard – the good, the bad and the interesting