Best, Better or Basic Crash Protection Rating? How does your convertible compare?
Over 18 months ago, Consumer Reports implemented a new, more rigorous crash test for carseats and released the results for their rear-facing only infant seat tests. CR’s goal in creating the new test and criteria in rating seats wasn’t to recreate the wheel; every carseat on the market in the U.S. must be able to pass a basic crash test to be sold and thus considered safe. Consumer Reports wanted to find out which seats provide the best head protection since head injuries are very common in crashes, even among properly restrained children.
This new test was designed by an automotive safety engineer and peer-reviewed by an independent crash-testing expert with 40 years of experience in the field. It is conducted on an actual contemporary vehicle seat (a 2010 Ford Flex 2nd row seat) with a floor below it, unlike the government test which has a 70’s era back seat test bench with no floor. There’s a simulated front seat back, called the blocker plate, installed in front of the test seat to mimic a front seat, which is used to test potential injury. The speed of the test is set at 35 mph. Testing is performed at an independent, outside testing facility. The new “Crash Protection” ratings scale will no longer use the circular blobs, but will instead indicate “basic,” “better,” or “best” at providing crash protection above and beyond baseline safety standards. Those who follow vehicle ratings will recognize the 35 mph test as the same speed that at which the NHTSA NCAP test for vehicles is run. CR’s new test applies 36% more energy to carseats than their old test protocol. A more severe test would presumably show greater distinction among carseat performance.
So what did CR’s 2015 tests of current convertible carseats find? Specifically, only in 1 rear-facing test out of 25 (4%) did one dummy’s head strike the blocker plate, or simulated front seatback. In contrast, in the infant seat tests, 16 out of 30 (53%) infant seats tested had dummies striking the blocker plate. What does this mean for your child? It means a taller carseat will provide better head protection for taller babies. For this reason Consumer Reports now recommends moving your baby into a rear-facing convertible “sooner, rather than later”, and not waiting until the infant seat is maxed out.
Consumer Reports crash tested convertible carseats in up to 7 configurations,