Q: Which infant car seats are best?

A: Most rear-facing infant car-seats on the market failed crash tests using tougher standards than the government uses, Consumer Reports said Thursday.

The magazine crash-tested 12 infant-seat brands and found that 10 didn't provide adequate protection.

The car seats have already passed the federal government crash tests, which are conducted from the front at 30 miles per hour.

Consumer Reports, however, tested the seats with the same standards the government uses in testing vehicles - for front crashes at 35 miles per hour and for side crashes at 38 miles per hour.

At those higher speeds, Consumer Reports found, rear-facing infant seats flew off their bases or twisted violently upon impact, in one case hurling the dummy 30 feet from the car.

One seat, the Evenflo Discovery, didn't even meet federal standards, according to the magazine, which said it is seeking a federal recall of the seat.

Evenflo CEO Robert Matteucci questioned the laboratory tests used by Consumer Reports. "Over decades of doing testing, we know that unless every variable is strictly adhered to - from the way the seat is strapped in to the crash test dummy used - the variables can affect the result," Matteucci said. Matteucci said Evenflo tests all of its car seats at 31.5 mph, which exceeds the 30 mph set by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

Don Mays, senior director of product safety and consumer science for Consumer Reports, doesn't think the federal standards go far enough. "Some of the same manufacturers sell the same seats in Europe that perform better [in tests] than in the U.S." he said.

The 12 models represented the most popular seats on the market, said Mays.

Only the Baby Trend Flex-Loc and the Graco SnugRide with EPS performed well in the magazine's tests.

The seat bases were attached to the car by safety belts or a series of belts, known as LATCH attachments, that hook to metal anchors in the car. LATCH stands for Lower Anchors and Tethers for Children.

The Chicco KeyFit, Compass I410, Evenflo Embrace, and Peg Perego Primo Viaggio SIP functioned well as long as the seat had a tight fit from the vehicle's safety belts rather than the LATCH system, according to Mays. The seats evaluated were all rear-facing carriers that snap into a base.

The other seats tested and found to have poor belt or latch results include the Britax Companion, the Graco SafeSeat, and the Combi Centre ST.

The Safety 1st Designer, sold as part of a travel system, had belt and latch problems.

Finally, the Eddie Bauer Comfort, discontinued but available in some stores, could not be installed securely, according to Consumer Reports.

The magazine notes that any car seat is better than no car seat at all.

Consumer Reports suggests securing the infant car-seat in the center-rear position of the vehicle's back seat.

The report also urges consumers to send registration cards to manufacturers when they buy a new seat so they can be notified in the event of a recall.

Finally consumers can go to the Web site nhtsa.gov to find a free car-seat inspection station.

From: CNN 1/5/07

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