There’s an old adage that says “Be careful what you wish for.” I was reminded of this last week when Transport Canada followed through on the promise Transport Minister John Baird made in May 2009, and released the results of the research crash testing that Transport Canada has been doing behind closed doors since 2003.
I spent hours upon hours over the last week watching the videos and picking through them with a fine tooth comb. Trying to identify patterns that might be predictive of a seat I wouldn’t want my child to ride in – and at the same time trying to figure out if one of the seats seemed to consistently perform better than the others. I’m guessing that as I write this there are now hundreds of parents out there doing the exact same thing – ultimately the very thing that Transport Canada doesn’t want anybody to do.
The crash test videos from the research testing are nothing short of spectacular in some cases. Who wouldn’t feel a little awe-struck watching an infant seat fly off the base or the harness rip out of a seat shell? After all, these aren’t exactly everyday occurrences.
I learned a lot through watching the videos and observing some unexpected interactions between the child restraints and vehicle seats, and it really drove home the point that as techs, advocates, and parents, we never do know the full reason why a manufacturer specifies any single thing in their instruction manuals aside from the fact that that is how the manufacturer has found the seat performs best. All these videos also serve to re-affirm how important the fit of the child seat to the vehicle is.
There has long been debate within the CPS community as to whether or not crash test results should be made public. I myself have weighed in on the topic from time to time and have tended to side with the camp who believes keeping the exact testing results secret is in the best interest of parents. I think that the public response to these videos will serve to show whether the public can handle what has been collectively wished for.
In the meantime, I applaud Transport Canada both for releasing the research testing videos, and for using the results of their testing in the review of standards which is nearing completion. I hope that the thorough analysis and description they have taken the time to place on the web site along with the videos will provide parents with the perspective that ultimately nothing has changed – the safest seat continues to be the one that fits the vehicle, fits the child, and will be used correctly every time.
As parents we want to keep our children as safe as possible. It’s instinct. And while there are some valuable lessons to be learned from the crash test videos , the one point that cannot be stressed enough is that these videos represent extreme crash test conditions which exceed current standards both in the US and Canada. Despite the failures that are seen in some of the videos, these same failures are not happening everyday in real-world use. In real world use, the children restraint systems currently on the market, and in use, do an excellent job of protecting their young occupants when installed and used correctly.
As for me personally? My children will continue to ride in the same seats that they were in before these videos were released. They fit my vehicles, my children, and both my husband and I use them correctly. And until we have further data that is even more specific, that is the best any of us can do.