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Magazine pulls infant car seat story

Consumer Reports says some of its test crashes took place at higher speeds than it claimed.

January 19, 2007|From the Associated Press

WHITE PLAINS, N.Y. — Consumer Reports on Thursday retracted a negative report on infant car seats that left many parents worried about their babies' safety -- an embarrassing revelation for the venerable magazine.

Consumer Reports said that it was withdrawing the report, issued Jan. 4, because some of its test crashes were conducted at speeds higher than it had claimed. The original report said most of the seats tested "failed disastrously" in crashes at speeds as low as 35 mph. In one test, it said, a dummy child was hurled 30 feet.

But the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration said some of the crash tests were conducted under conditions that would represent being struck at more than 70 mph.

"Consumer Reports was right to withdraw its infant car seat test report and I appreciate that they have taken this corrective action," said Nicole Nason, administrator of the traffic safety agency. "I was troubled by the report because it frightened parents and could have discouraged them from using car seats."

Nason said more than 100 worried parents had called the agency's hotline on the evening the original report was released.

Phil Haseltine, executive director of the National Safety Council's Air Bag & Seat Belt Safety Campaign, said the report had raised doubts among many parents about their car seats despite the "very rigorous standard at NHTSA."

"I think it's going to take a substantial educational effort to undo that damage," said Haseltine, whose organization was created through a partnership of automakers, insurance companies and safety groups.

Consumer Reports said that it would review its study, retest the car seats and publish a new article as soon as possible.

In a statement Thursday, Consumer Reports said it had received information from the traffic safety administration "concerning the speed at which our side-impact tests were conducted" -- supposedly, 38 mph. Consumer Reports spokesman Ken Weine said new information from the federal agency showed that the speeds were higher.

The Yonkers, N.Y.-based magazine tested the type of infant car seat that faces the rear and snaps in and out of a base.

It found only two of the 12 seats worth recommending, and it urged a federal recall of one seat, the Evenflo Discovery. Evenflo Co. had immediately disputed the tests' validity.

However, Weine said a recall was still being urged for the Discovery and for another seat that was judged unacceptable because it did not fit well in several cars.

Evenflo said Thursday that it had run 17 tests on randomly purchased Discovery seats in the last week and the seat passed federal standards each time.

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