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Volvo Weighs in on Child Car Seats

I was excited to see that an automobile manufacturer had weighed in on car seats and child safety. One facet of the argument we make against the efficacy of child car seats is that government standards for car seats cut the automakers out of the safety loop to some degree, creating some misaligned incentives between regulators, automakers, and car seat manufacturers.
According to this article in the Australian newspaper The Age, the Swedish automaker Volvo has found a number of shortcomings with existing car-seat practices. Its recommendations are based on “independent crash tests and investigations of more than 4,500 crashes involving children,” and argue that:

  • Young children are much safer facing the rear of the car and should ride that way until age three or four (as they commonly do in Sweden), rather than facing forward starting at six months or one year.
  • “[C]hildren should be in booster seats until at least age 10 to ensure seatbelts are positioned correctly across their chests without riding up to their necks.”
  • “Current child seats require feeding the seatbelt and attaching a top tether, something that takes time and is often not performed properly. An RACV report in 2004 estimated that child seats were incorrectly fitted as much as 70 per cent of the time.”

  • All that said, there was no word about Volvo pushing for a further integration of child-safety measures into the cars themselves, hopefully obviating the need for an add-on piece of equipment made by a third party which has been shown to provide minimal benefit.
    But I suppose it is a step forward nonetheless that an automaker is speaking out on child safety. That is not necessarily an easy thing to do. You may recall that when Robert S. McNamara (yes, the same one) tried to push Ford to install seat belts in its cars in the 1950’s, Ford feared that “selling safety” was bad for business in that it reminded people that cars were inherently unsafe.
    (Hat tip: Kevin Hayes and Ben Glasson.)