Con­cern over re­port on rear-fac­ing kids

Lesotho Times - - Motoring -

WASH­ING­TON DC — A new study show­ing the po­ten­tial for chil­dren in rear-fac­ing car seats to hit their heads dur­ing rear-end crashes wor­ries some safety ex­perts, who say they’re con­cerned it will wrongly dis­cour­age par­ents from keep­ing chil­dren in the safest rear-fac­ing po­si­tion.

The study, pub­lished in the Oc­to­ber is­sue of the Jour­nal of Traf­fic In­jury Preven­tion, found that an in­fant-sized crash-test dummy reg­is­tered se­ri­ous head in­juries when its rear­fac­ing car seat pitched for­ward — to­ward the back of the ve­hi­cle — in rear-end crash tests.

Test videos show the top of the car seat and the dummy’s ex­posed head be­ing thrown into the back of the ve­hi­cle seat in which the car seat was at­tached. The es­ti­mated head in­juries were more se­vere, the study found, when the car seat was at­tached via the ve­hi­cle seat’s lower “LATCH” an­chors com­pared to seat belts.

“It’s ba­sic physics,” in a rear-end col­li­sion, said Jamie Wil­liams, one of the study’s au­thors and a biomed­i­cal en­gi­neer for Rob­son Foren­sic, a Lan­caster, Penn­syl­va­nia, firm that pro­vides ex­pert tes­ti­mony in law­suits, in­clud­ing car crashes.

“It shouldn’t be a sur­prise to any­one. The only sur­prise was the mag­ni­tude of the head strikes. We didn’t think it would be that bad.”

Wil­liams stressed that in­fants and young chil­dren should re­main in rear-fac­ing car seats. The study didn’t con­clude they’re un­safe, she said, only that they could be made safer for rear-end crashes. She noted that in Swe­den, top teth­ers from the car seats to the ve­hi­cle floor pre­vent rear-fac­ing seats from tilt­ing into ve­hi­cle seat backs.

Mis­un­der­stood But some child safety ex­perts say that while the sub­ject war­rants more re­search, they’re con­cerned the find­ings could be mis­un­der­stood and con­fuse par­ents.

The ex­perts say they’re wor­ried par­ents will hear about po­ten­tial head in­juries in rear-end col­li­sions and wrongly con­clude that chil­dren aren’t safe rear-fac­ing. On the con­trary, they say, stud­ies show in­fants and young tod­dlers are five times safer rid­ing back­wards be­cause the car seat can bet­ter sup­port their heavy heads, weak necks and vul­ner­a­ble spines.

That’s par­tic­u­larly true, they say, in fron­tend crashes, which, along with side-im­pact col­li­sions, ac­count for far more child deaths and se­ri­ous in­juries than rear-end crashes.

Since 2011, the Amer­i­can Academy of Pe­di­atrics has rec­om­mended that chil­dren be re­strained rear-fac­ing un­til at least age two, or up to the car seat’s max­i­mum height and weight for that po­si­tion.

Twelve states re­quire chil­dren to sit rear­fac­ing un­til age one, and three states man­date it un­til age three. The District of Columbia, Mary­land and Vir­ginia re­quire that chil­dren un­der age eight be re­strained in child safety seats, but don’t spec­ify a di­rec­tion.

Child safety ex­perts say it’s pos­si­ble for a rear-fac­ing car seat to ro­tate for­ward, to­ward the child’s feet, and hit the seat back. It oc­curs more se­verely in a rear-im­pact crash, they say. It also can oc­cur in front-end crashes when a car seat that’s ini­tially thrust for­ward “re­bounds” back again.

‘Un­nec­es­sar­ily alarmist’ But Kath­leen Klinich, as­so­ciate re­search sci­en­tist at the Univer­sity of Michi­gan Trans­porta­tion Re­search In­sti­tute and a car-seat re­searcher, said she is con­cerned that the study is “un­nec­es­sar­ily alarmist.”

She said she’s never heard of a child be­ing in­jured or killed in a rear-fac­ing car seat be­cause of the seat throw­ing the child’s head into the ve­hi­cle seat back. It “cer­tainly” can oc­cur, she said, but chil­dren would prob­a­bly re­main pro­tected within the frame of the car seat, or re­quired pad­ding on the ve­hi­cle seat pre­vents se­ri­ous in­jury.

“We don’t see any field data of kids be­ing in­jured rear-fac­ing,” Klinich said. “We have strong data show­ing rear-fac­ing re­straints are highly ef­fec­tive. Get­ting more kids to be rear-fac­ing would save more kids.”

Jes­sica Jer­makian, a se­nior re­search sci­en­tist for the In­sur­ance In­sti­tute for High­way Safety, said the find­ings are “mis­lead­ing” be­cause rear-im­pact crashes, while quite com­mon, gen­er­ally oc­cur as 10-15km/h fend­er­ben­ders — far slower than the 50km/h speed used in the crash tests. Higher-speed hits from be­hind of­ten re­sult in one ve­hi­cle “in­trud­ing” into an­other, killing the oc­cu­pants re­gard­less of how they’re belted in, ex­perts say.

“Yes, it can hap­pen, Jer­makian said, “but when you talk about the world of se­ri­ous crashes that peo­ple get into, se­vere rear-im­pacts are rare

“Chil­dren are much more likely to be in a sig­nif­i­cant frontal crash, and that child is sig­nif­i­cantly safer in a rear-fac­ing car seat than for­ward-fac­ing.”

Crash­wor­thi­ness Even so, the po­ten­tial for rear-fac­ing car seats to pitch chil­dren into the seat back has drawn at­ten­tion in other coun­tries and among some car seat man­u­fac­tur­ers. Canada and some Euro­pean coun­tries have re­quired car seats to limit “re­bound­ing” for years. Some man­u­fac­tur­ers, such as Bri­tax, of­fer an “anti-re­anti-re­bound bar” for some seats, while oth­ers,rs, such as Combi, pro­vide for rear tether strap­sps sim­i­lar to those used in Swe­den.

Car seats sold in the United State­ses must meet crash­wor­thi­ness re­quire­ments s only for frontal col­li­sions. The Na­tional High­wayigh­way Traf­fic Safety Ad­min­is­tra­tion is con­sid­er­ingsider­ing new reg­u­la­tions for side-im­pact

NHTSA spokesman Gor­don Trow­bridgew­bridge said the agency hadn’t fully re­viewed­wed the study. In re­sponse to e-mailed ques­tions, es­tions, Trow­bridge wrote, “Real-world crash h data does not in­di­cate chil­dren in rear-fac­ingc­ing car seats are be­ing in­jured by con­tact­ing the seat on re­bound.”

Trow­bridge said reg­u­la­tions fo­cus onn fron­tend col­li­sions be­cause they ac­count forr about 43 per­cent of in­juries to chil­dren in car r seats. Side-im­pact crashes ac­count for about 33 per­cent and rear-end crashes nine per­cent.nt.

Among chil­dren less than one year old who were killed in car seats be­tween 200505 and 2009, 15 per­cent were in rear-end col­li­sions,lli­sions, com­pared to about one-third each in frontal and side crashes, he wrote. A 20011 study of fa­tal ac­ci­dents with chil­dren in car seats found that rear-end crashes were “un­sur­viv­able” be­cause the child’s seat­ing area was con­sumed in the crash.

Trow­bridge said the agency is fo­cused on mak­ing LATCH eas­ier to use so more car seats are in­stalled prop­erly.

‘Crash forces un­der­es­ti­mated’ But Wil­liams said she be­lieved the crash forces on rear-fac­ing car seats in rear-end col­li­sions have been given short shrift. She said she and her study co-au­thors, Car­rie O’donel and Peter Leiss, couldn’t find pre­vi­ous re­search on it.

She said the 50km/h speed used in the rear-end crash tests mim­icked the sever­ity of speeds used in fed­eral frontal crash tests. For a rear-fac­ing child, she said, a rear-end col­li­sion can be sim­i­lar to a frontal crash.

One of the most con­cern­ing find­ings, she said, was that, even when the in­fant dummy’s head had hit the seat back, the car seat re­turned to the cor­rect po­si­tion. In a real crash, Wil­liams said, an emer­gency first re­spon­der or par­ent might not re­al­ize that the child’s head had hit the seat back and might as­sume the cry­ing child was merely up­set. That could re­sult in chil­dren not get­ting ex­am­ined or treated for pos­si­ble head in­juries, she said.

Be­cause in­fants and young tod­dlers can’t speak, they can’t tell doc­tors that their head hurts or they feel nau­se­ated - symp­toms of a po­ten­tially se­ri­ous con­cus­sion. She said stud­ies show that early child­hood head in­juries of­ten don’t be­come ap­par­ent un­til a child starts school. By then, she said, par­ents, doc­tors and teach­ers might not link cog­ni­tive prob­lems to a traf­fic crash sev­eral years ear­lier.

“We don’t get to choose what kind of car crash we’re in,” Wil­liams said. “We’ve made huge strides over the past sev­eral decades in child safety, but it doesn’t mean the job is done. We can do bet­ter.”

Most car-seat ex­perts said they re­main fo­cused on get­ting more par­ents to buckle up their chil­dren and in­stall car seats prop­erly. More par­ents, they say, need to get the mes­sage that chil­dren who are prop­erly re­strained — in­clud­ing rear-fac­ing up to age two — are the best pro­tected pas­sen­gers in any car.

“We still need to get more kids rear-fac­ing and get more kids prop­erly re­strained,” Klinich said. “That will im­prove things more than try­ing to im­prove (car seat) de­signs to pre­vent re­bound.” — Wash­ing­ton Post

New re­search raises con­cerns over what hap­pens to a child in a rear-fac­ing seat when the car gets hit from be­hind.

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