NHTSA introduces new crash test dummy for child safety seat evaluation

Feb. 22, 2012

Feb. 22, 2012—The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) on Tuesday unveiled a new crash test dummy that will be used to evaluate child safety seats and boosters made for children weighing more than 65 pounds.

The NHTSA said its new dummy, which represents a 10-year-old child, was developed as a result of new safety seat requirements that have been updated to keep pace with the latest scientific research and child restraint system technologies. The dummy is the best tool currently available for measuring the risk of injury to a child using a higher-weight child restraint system during a vehicle crash, according to the agency.

The 10-year-old child test dummy will provide information on the risk of injuries using head excursions, knee excursions and chest acceleration. The dummy will also help evaluate how well higher-weight restraint systems, rated from 65 to 80 pounds, manage crash energy and whether the seat's structure stays intact.

"It's good news that manufacturers are making more car seats and boosters than ever before designed to keep older and heavier children safer on our roadways," said U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood. "As the marketplace evolves to accommodate changing consumer needs, it's important that safety regulators also have the best tools possible for evaluating how well these products work. The new test dummy breaks new ground for the Department's crash test program and is a significant step forward for evaluating child seat performance."

In 2011, the NHTSA issued child safety seat recommendations that encourage parents and caregivers to keep children in car seats with a harness for as long as possible. The agency recommends that children ride in a booster seat until they are big enough to fit in a seat belt properly, which is typically when the child is 8 to 12 years old, and roughly 4 feet 9 inches tall.

"Our new dummy is an excellent addition to NHTSA's extensive child seat compliance testing program and will enable the agency to gather the best data yet on the performance of higher-weight child seats," said David Strickland, administrator of the NHTSA. "Even as we begin to reap the benefits of this new tool, NHTSA is already looking down the road and has research under way to further improve the dummy."

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