Side impact safety for your kids

January 24, 2008 6:21:42 PM PST
Side impact car crashes can be deadly and now, car makers are beginning to install side impact air bags. It helps adults but what about the kids?

Those side impact air bags can actually injure children pretty badly. Now, there is a new kind of product quickly gaining popularity meant solely to help little kids in side impact crashes.

Pam McKenney of San Carlos was looking for a new booster seat for her five year old son. She focused on a specific one because it has something extra -- protection from side impact collisions.

"I don't know. I guess it just gives you peace of mind and a little more protection," says McKenney.

Benito Jimenez is a government certified car seat expert at Lullaby Lane in San Bruno. He says the extra protection comes from cushioned wings on the sides.

"The extra material on the side of body and head would allow additional protection and support in case of a side impact collision. The more movement hat goes around, the more the brain rattles around in our skull and causes trauma."

Bioengineer Kristy Arbogast is a traffic injury expert at Children's Hospital in Philadelphia. She says "side impacts have the highest fatality rate and the highest injury rate."

Federal regulators are now considering new testing standards to see if these car seats with wings really do protect kids in side impact crashes. Most of these seats come from manufacturers in Europe, like Peg Perego and Britax.

Benito says there is some reluctance to make mandatory protections against side impact crashes. "Although it's the most lethal crash, it's not going to be the most common. Side impact protection is not deemed 100 percent necessary and unfortunately, it can cause a lot of increase in weight, size, and price."

Indeed, the price of these side impact car seats can be four or five times higher than a regular car seat, which can cost $50 or $60 dollars for an average standard design in the U.S., while a model with side impact protection can be as much as $250 to $300 dollars.

So, Benito says requiring all seats to have the side impact protection could make car seats too expensive for some parents. Mandatory or not, many parents are already buying them. About 40 percent of customers at Lullaby Lane are buying these seats for their kids.

"Some people will pay anything to get any extra protection whereas some people will just want enough to get by," says Benito.

Ashish Gupta of San Carlos and his wife have two toddlers and an infant. Do they want protection against side impacts?

"Because there will be two children on either side, the side impact car seat will be important. We thought about who will be the kid on the side because you want the infant in the middle," says Gupta.

Ashish Gupta soes care about price but not as much as he does about safety.

The folks at Lullaby Lane say more and more parents are buying regular car seats. They do protect mainly in front or rear collisons. However, if you want information on the side-impact chairs, we've posted links below.