New car seats to offer more protection

July 12, 2009 12:00:00 AM PDT
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration is proposing new rules to bolster side impact protection in car seats for children. The first seats with side head protection will begin to appear by the end of the summer.

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A side impact is involved in one out of three child crash fatalities, according to the NHTSA. Yet, current car seats use a model focused more on protection from the front. Much research is old and there is no government standard for anything like a side airbag for car seats.

One new technology does use a kind of reverse air bag, the Air Protect from Dorel Juvenile Group of Massachusetts. What appears to be a foam pad appears on both sides of the car seat. In a hard impact it feels like hard rubber. Yet, as you squeeze it, it slowly lets all the air out.

The real technology innovation though, according to the designer, was the device built to test it.

"That was a big part of it," says David Amarault, Director of Design and Engineering for Dorel. "Working with Kettering University, we kind of co-developed this intruding door technology, so that the door actually comes into the compartment space where the child is and transfers those energies. And that's very realistic compared to what happens in the event of a real side impact."

ABC7 asked young Oliver Telli of San Francisco to try out the seat. His mother likes the idea but wants to be assured by real numbers, test results, before spending more money.

"Yes," she says, "I would prefer for it to be tested and compared to some of the older models that are deemed to be safe. He rides in the car seat almost every day and you have the car seat for a few years at a time. So, per day, it turns out to be pennies."

Now, if they could just add stereo speakers with tunes by Elmo, baby, you could drive my car.

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