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Friday, January 19, 2007

CU Effed Up, Schooled By NHTSA

When Consumer's Union (Consumer Reports) reported that the majority of infant seats they tested failed a side impact crash test, NHTSA was horrified and sprang into action. They tested samples of the same car seats that CU was claiming failed--and they couldn't duplicate CU's results. NHTSA deduced that CU had tested an equivalent of a 70mph side impact, not a 38mph side impact.

“Our initial review of the Consumer Reports testing procedures showed a significant error in the manner in which it conducted and reported on its side-impact tests. The organization’s data show its side-impact tests were actually conducted under conditions that would represent being struck in excess of 70 mph, twice as fast as the group claimed. When NHTSA tested the same child seats in conditions representing the 38.5 mph conditions claimed by Consumer Reports, the seats stayed in their bases as they should, instead of failing dramatically.”
I have always been suspicious of Consumer Reports "scientific" methods--they don't reveal details of their testing, use tiny sample sizes, and inject (mostly liberal) politics into their conclusions. For example, CU apparently gives the same weight to a burnt out lightbulb on a new car as a non functioning ABS system--both are "problems". Obviously, one is major and one is not.

CU has retracted their report, but the damage has already been done to the car seat makers, who were pilloried by the local nightly news ("Your kids at risk! News at 11:00!"). Even worse,they may have convinced some people that their car seats are unsafe. I hope they get sued.

Here's a video of a re-test that NHTSA did of one of the "failed" car seats, at the actual speed of 38mph:

Here's a video of an unrestrained infant dummy:

(Please, don't be a dummy!)

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