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NHTSA To Finally Require Side-Impact Testing Of Child Car Seats

Finally Require Side-Impact Testing Of Child Car Seats

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration is responsible for collecting data about side-impact collisions and that data is alarming. Side impact types of accidents are especially bad for children.

In the last 20 years, the number of children’s deaths caused by T-bone collisions has gone up by 20 percent.

The increase in these accidents has been attributed to two factors: increased speed and more SUVs on the road. A side-impact collision was responsible for 29 percent of the 9,000 fatalities recorded in one year.

Did You Know That Until Now, Side-Impact Crash Testing Of A Child’s Car Seat Was Not Required?

Car seats for kids under 40 pounds will now have to pass a side-impact test that replicates a 30-mph T-bone-style side collision, although manufacturers have three years to comply.


In 2021, a group of 17 state attorneys general wrote a letter to NHTSA that said not having side-impact tests in place “unnecessarily endangers children on the road and does a huge disservice to families.”


It has taken longer than safety advocates, Congress, and many state attorneys general wanted, but the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has finally issued a rule for updated side-impact crash tests involving child safety seats used on passenger vehicles.

Before the new rule, child safety seats were only required to prove their efficacy in tests that simulated 30-mph front impact crashes. The new rule adds a 30-mph side impact test, also known as a T-bone crash, to the list.

Side-Impact Car Accidents and Children

Side-impact accidents are sometimes called broadside collisions or T-bone crashes due to the nature of the way the vehicles hit each other and form a “T” shape. These accidents occur when one vehicle’s front end directly impacts the side of another car or truck.

Some of the most common causes of side-impact car accidents are:

  • Driving while under the influence of drugs or alcohol
  • Speeding and red-light running
  • Improper lane change
  • Drowsy driving
  • Distractions such as texting or using a mobile device, in-vehicle technologies and helping backseat passengers while driving
  • Pile-up accidents

Injuries may manifest differently in each crash depending on the speed, force of impact, type of vehicle involved, and age of those injured, particularly children who are seated in a car seat that is not in compliance to side-impact crash safety standards.

Injuries to children that have been associated with side-impact car accidents include:

  • Traumatic brain injury
  • Concussion, neck injuries, or whiplash
  • Broken bones in the face, hands, legs, arms, ribs
  • Internal and external decapitation
  • Spinal cord injury or paralysis
  • Death


Test Dummies “Tossed Around” in Earlier Testing

The problem with the previous system, as CBS News and ProPublica reported in 2020, was that NHTSA gave some booster seats passing grades even though “the test dummies were violently tossed around during the tests,” CBS News claimed this week. The problems CBS and ProPublica reported on led to a House Oversight Committee investigation that found that some booster seat manufacturers were “[endangering] the lives of millions of American children and misled consumers about the safety of booster seats by failing to conduct appropriate side-impact testing.” CBS published some dramatic footage of these crash tests.

In July 2021, 16 state attorneys general and one from the District of Columbia wrote to NHTSA about the administration’s failure to implement side-impact standards for child booster seats, even though Congress had mandated such a rule over 20 years ago. “As a result of NHTSA’s inaction, there is currently no government standard for side-impact testing in the United States for any child restraint system,” the attorneys general wrote.

“The failure to promulgate side-impact testing standards unnecessarily endangers children on the road and does a huge disservice to families.”

Child Safety Seat Makers Have Three Years to Comply

NHTSA did say in 2014 that it would work on a side-impact rule for child seats, but it wasn’t until after all of this official and public pressure was applied that NHTSA finally made it official in a 265-page PDF. NHTSA now says child seats sold in the U.S. will need to “provide proper restraint, manage side crash forces, and protect against harmful head and chest contact with intruding structures.” The child seats will also need to “withstand crash forces from a side impact without collapsing or fragmenting in a manner that could harm the child,” NHTSA said.

“Side-impact collisions cause serious injuries and deaths in young children each year,” NHTSA administrator Steven Cliff said in a statement. “By establishing more comprehensive testing requirements, we are advancing child passenger safety and assuring parents that the safety seat they choose for their child must meet the highest safety standards.”

The affected seats are those meant for children who weigh up to 40 pounds and are up to 43.3 inches tall (basically, kids up to around age four). Previously, NHTSA regulations said children over 30 pounds could use simple booster seats instead of the safer child restraint systems under discussion here.

Child seat manufacturers will have three years to comply with the rule once it is officially published in the Federal Register and any petitions for reconsideration have been taken care of.

Important Child Safety Seat Reminders For Parents

  • As children grow, so do their restraint types (rear- facing, forward-facing, booster seat, or seat belt). Always use the one that fits your child’s current age and size. 
  • Use the NHTSA Car Seat Finder located at www.nhtsa. gov/equipment/car-seats-and-booster-seats. 
  • Every car and every car seat or booster seat has different installation instructions, so make sure you read both the car seat instructions and the vehicle owner’s manual. 
  • Remember that children in rear-facing seats should never be placed in front of an active passenger air bag. 
  • Use either the lower anchors and tether, or the seat belt and tether when installing forward-facing seats. 

— NHTSA’s Research and Program Development 

What To Do If You Are In A Car Accident While Traveling In Florida

1. Call the police and file a report
2. Swap information (including any insurance info they may have)
3. Gather details
4. Take pictures
5. Gather contact information of any witnesses
6. Seek medical care immediately for any injuries – no matter how minor you think they might be.




Joe Zarzaur is a Board Certified Civil Trial Attorney whose firm is dedicated to promoting community safety since 2007. ZARZAUR LAW’S AREAS OF PRACTICE: Serious Personal Injury, Product Defect, Auto Accidents, Cycling Accidents, Motor Vehicle Accidents, Products Liability, Wrongful Death, Community Safety, Boat and Jet Ski Accidents, Slip and Fall Injuries, and more. Licensed in Alabama and Florida.

If your child has been injured as a result of a side-impact car accident, it’s important that you don’t make any rash decisions. Put yourself in the best possible position to receive the justice you deserve. It is also important to consult with a Board Certified Trial lawyer who has the knowledge and experience to help you. We know accidents can be stressful and want to make the process as easy as possible for you. Call Zarzaur Law, P.A. today at (855) Hire-Joe, or by requesting a free case review through our website.

Offices in Pensacola, Destin, Miami, and Tallahassee.