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Child Safety Experts Reassure Parents That Car Seats are Safe and Effective When Correctly Used

WASHINGTON, Jan. 4, 2007 -- Safe Kids Worldwide wants to reassure parents and caregivers that car seats are safe and effective when used according to manufacturers' instructions. Every car seat on the market in the United States has passed the same rigorous crash tests required by the U.S. Department of Transportation. Parents should not fear for their children's safety in cars in response to a recent Consumers Union report raising questions about the performance of infant car seats.

"We want parents to use their car seats and use them correctly," said Lorrie Walker, technical advisor to Safe Kids Worldwide and National Child Passenger Safety Board member. "If your infant car seat is less than six years old, if it's never been in a crash, if it's reclining at about a 45-degree angle in the car, if it's secured tightly in the back seat and the harness straps are adjusted correctly for your baby, then you're giving your baby the safest ride possible with current technology."

Car seat manufacturers are required to test their products against federal standards using standardized procedures. Most manufacturers say they voluntarily test to higher standards. The federal standards do not call for side-impact crash tests at this time. Car seat manufacturers are working with the International Standards Organization to develop global standards that will include side-impact tests; meanwhile, Walker said, "In Australia, car seats have to pass a side-impact crash test at 19 miles per hour, and that's the highest standard in the world. Consumers Union tested car seats at 38 miles per hour. We want to see the technology continue to improve, but we don't want parents to lose confidence in their car seats today -- the best protection available."

Walker also reminds parents that any car seat made after 2002 can be installed either with safety belts or the LATCH system, if the vehicle is equipped with lower anchors for a car seat. "Use safety belts or LATCH for an infant, whichever you prefer, but not both. If you're worried about LATCH, use the safety belt," said Walker. "Take the time to read the instructions for your car seat cover to cover -- and the owner's manual for your car."

Parents who need help installing or adjusting a car seat can get free hands-on training from a nationally certified Child Passenger Safety Technician through the state or local Safe Kids coalition. Visit http://www.usa.safekids.org/ and click on "Find Coalitions and Events Near You." Safe Kids Worldwide is the certifying body for the nation's 30,000 Child Passenger Safety Technicians and has inspected nearly 1 million car seats and booster seats through the Safe Kids Buckle Up program established in 1996 in partnership with General Motors.

Safe Kids Worldwide is a global network of organizations whose mission is to prevent accidental childhood injury, a leading killer of children 14 and under. More than 450 coalitions in 16 countries bring together health and safety experts, educators, corporations, foundations, governments and volunteers to educate and protect families. The organization was founded in 1987 by Children's National Medical Center with support from Johnson & Johnson.