- Associated Press - Friday, February 7, 2014

COLUMBUS, Ind. (AP) - One in three child crash fatalities are caused by side-impact collisions, yet car seat manufacturers never have been required to simulate a “T-bone” scenario - until now.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has proposed a new rule requiring car seats to withstand side-impact collisions of up to 30 mph.

The new standards are expected to prevent about five deaths and 65 injuries each year, a “very, very conservative estimate,” according to the safety administration.

Columbus-based Dorel Juvenile Group, the world’s largest car seat manufacturer, already is a few steps ahead.

“As a leader in the industry, we wanted to take the lead in this,” Mark Evanko, executive vice president for quality assurance and product safety, told The Republic (http://bit.ly/1exRwbf ).

For the past decade, Dorel has been investing in car seats with side-impact protection.

“We realized the standards did not represent the most injurious collisions,” said Terry Emerson, director of quality assurance, child restraint systems and regulatory affairs.

Although T-bone accidents happen less often than front- or rear-impact crashes, the scenario still is quite common, Evanko said. About one in four accidents are side-impact, according to NHTSA.

“You have an intersection and someone is supposed to be going through it and somebody is not supposed to be going through it,” he said. “You get T-boned, just like that.”

When NHTSA informed Congress in 2004 that enhanced side-impact protection was a priority, Dorel quickly teamed up with the agency.

Industry and regulation do not often mesh well - new regulations can mean costly equipment upgrades or new procedures for companies - but spokeswoman Julie Vallese said that’s not the case with Dorel.

“The car seat industry is an industry that recognizes the need for regulations because these are safety devices,” she said. “Car seats are the only child product that is required by law for parents to purchase. The child is our client.”

With safety in mind, Dorel sent a petition to NHTSA asking the agency to consider using the side-impact test procedure they developed in partnership with Kettering University for the federal regulation.

The proposed rules, published in the federal register a week ago, require tests very similar to the ones being conducted in the Dorel labs for nearly a decade.

The test will simulate a T-bone collision where the front of a vehicle traveling 30 mph strikes the side of a passenger vehicle traveling at 15 mph.

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