I am the Director of Child Passenger Safety for the Juvenile Products Manufacturers Association (JPMA) and in that role I manage a committee of car seat manufacturers, importers, test labs and other stakeholders. A main purpose of that group is to identify common industry interests and messaging, and to communicate that information appropriately.
JPMA is the “voice of quality and safety” for our juvenile products industry, primarily in the United States and Canada. In addition to collaborating with other stakeholders toward safer product regulations, safer laws governing the use of car seats, and improved educational programming, JPMA directly provides resources and opportunities for families.
Our most active annual period for consumer-facing activity is Baby Safety Month (https://www.jpma.org/baby_safety_month), which we initiated in 1983 and continue to observe each September. National Child Passenger Safety Week also occurs during September in the USA, and during that week we hold a car seat inspection event, promote additional educational opportunities involving car seat manufacturers, and disseminate car seat tips and other resources through broadcast and social media. Many of the related materials can be found at www.jpma.org
The most crucial factors in obtaining a car seat are that:
Beyond those considerations, other factors may include safety and convenience enhancements, the family’s budget, and any lifestyle needs.
Motor vehicle crashes remain a leading cause of injury and death for children, and correctly used car seats and seat belts is a proven countermeasure. A phrase that I like to remember is that, “new parents are born every day” and need information. In that spirit, the need for ongoing educational messaging and resources remains. In addition, we must consider that safety regulations and “best practice” recommendations continue to evolve as study advances. Reflecting and explaining evidence-based improvements is important.
At this point, we must also consider that some messaging momentum for keeping families informed and updated was hindered during the COVID pandemic. Some educational programs and resources were modified or temporarily halted during that period, and new parents may not have had easy access to the information they provided.
Manufacturer instructions, labels and online resources are a crucial part of car seat education. Reinforcing correct use messaging can take many forms, including:
Brands do far more than manufacture and sell car seats. The products are intended for specific purposes, designed for effective protection of children in defined height, weight and age ranges, and tested for those uses. The manufacturer instructions reflect using the products as intended.
A growing number of manufacturers supplement those instructions with information in different forms, including:
Retailers can play an important role by reinforcing the importance of choosing the right car seat for a child’s age and size to prevent or reduce injuries from motor vehicle crashes. Parents need to understand the risks of motor vehicle crashes and that correctly selected and used car seats and seat belts significantly reduce those risks.
Rather than creating original materials, a better approach is to promote resources from credible experts like car seat manufacturers, regulators and leading advocate organizations. Accuracy is crucial and the supporting science continues to expand. These dedicated resources provide consistent and current information, while original materials may not.
Training retail employees on the basics of child passenger safety and “best practice” recommendations is a good way to differentiate a retail organization. Training programs for that purpose continue to be developed in the U.S., the U.K. and elsewhere. At a minimum, retailers should never provide information that conflicts with manufacturer instructions or guidance.
FMVSS 213 regulates child restraint systems in the U.S. The regulation applies to any device except seat belts designed for use in a motor vehicle or aircraft to restrain, seat, or position children who weigh 36 kg (80 lb) or less.
Both standards are evidence-based, and their application provides for safe and protective child restraint products. The approaches toward that shared objective differ, however, and the specific requirements therefore vary significantly. The end result, however, is that child users are well-protected by car seats meeting either standard. It is important and required, however, that families in the U.S. only use car seats that comply with U.S. regulations and families in the E.U. only use those that meet European standards.
Extending the period that children can ride in each mode of restraint is also occurring in the U.S. Children are riding rearward facing longer, and car seats have rearward facing limits as high as 50 pounds. Most forward-facing car seats with internal harnesses can now be used to an upper limit of 65 pounds. Booster seats (cushions) typically have upper limits ranging from 100 to 120 pounds. The overall recommendations from the American Academy of Pediatrics and the National Highway traffic Safety Administration are for families to delay transitions between modes for as long as the height, weight and age requirements in the specific manufacturer instructions allow.
U.S. car seats will continue to evolve due to regulatory improvements and market demands. FMVSS 213a will be fully implemented in June 2025, requiring successful lateral impact testing of models designed for children weighing up to 40 pounds. FMVSS 213 overall requirements will also be updated and improved, though the specifics of those changes are not yet final. In addition to regulations, voluntary safety enhancements are being introduced by leading manufacturers.
We are also seeing more attention to consumer interests resulting in additional convenience features. Many of these features are designed to encourage the correct use of car seats and overcome known consumer errors. Other features reflect changing consumer needs, including increased car seat use in multiple vehicles and other lifestyle differences. Some models are even beginning to incorporate technology into car seat functions or instructions.
This is an exciting time for car seat development, and the beneficiaries will be children and their families!
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