- Dummy approximates children at age 10
- Agency recognizes growing number of seats for larger children
- Manufacturers have two years to meet requirements
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration on Tuesday unveiled a new crash test dummy to be used to evaluate child safety seats and boosters made for children weighing more than 65 pounds.
The test dummy will be used to make sure new booster seats and restraints for larger kids meet new standards, which take effect in 2014.
NHTSA says there are a growing number of seats for the larger children, who typically range in age from 8 to 12, and the time was ripe for federal safety standards.
"It's good news that manufacturers are making more car seats and boosters than ever before designed to keep older and heavier children safer on our roadways," U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood said in a statement.
"As the marketplace evolves to accommodate changing consumer needs, it's important that safety regulators also have the best tools possible for evaluating how well these products work. The new test dummy breaks new ground for the department's crash test program and is a significant step forward for evaluating child seat performance."
The test dummy, known in government speak as the "Hybrid III 10-year-old child test dummy (HIII-10C)," weighs 35 kilograms (78 pounds) and will be used to check child seats and safety restraint systems, for children weighing between 66 and 80 pounds, in crash tests.
The government began requiring tests of child seats in 1979 with a 6-month-old child and a 3-year-old child, and has expanded the number and sizes of crash test dummies as new state-of-the-art models have become available, NHTSA said. But previous child dummies were limited to dummies representing 6-year-olds.
NHTSA said the new dummy will capture the risk of injuries using head and knee excursions, as well as chest acceleration.
Manufacturers will have two years to certify their higher-weight car seats and boosters meet the new requirements.
Administrator David Strickland said NHTSA is "already looking down the road and has research under way to further improve the dummy."
Last year, NHTSA issued a recommendation encouraging parents to keep children in a car seat with a harness for as long as possible, up to the height and weight specifications of the seat.
The agency's updated child seat guidance also recommends that children ride in a booster seat until they are big enough to fit in a seat belt properly, which is typically when the child is somewhere between 8 and 12 years old and about 4 feet 9 inches tall.