First invented and designed in 1968, child car seats have evolved over several decades. What was once acceptable is now looked upon as dangerous. Cutting-edge technology has played a role in making seats with the highest quality standards. Yet, a simple, non-technological addition has significantly improved safety.
Added stability makes a difference
Consumer Reports (CR) is heralding the progress, specifically the expansive growth of “load legs.” Borrowed from Europe, the newest feature introduced in the United States market provides an extra level of support by extending the leg from the seat’s base to the vehicle’s floor.
The improved stability reduces the transfer of “crash energy” to the child. Most common in rear-facing seats, load legs are now being incorporated into convertible car seats.
Alone, a load leg will not provide the highest standard of safety. Tests on infant seats saw six scoring “Better” for crash protection, similar to seats lacking the feature. Twelve child seats received Very Good or Excellent ratings in “ease-of-use.”
Considered a welcome innovation in safety, testing reveals a 46 percent reduction in the average head injury than seats without the added stability. Protection increases when a load leg and lower anchors secure the outboard seats. The only caution is center seating positions with a driveline “hump” on the floor that could prevent full extension.
Price points are an issue as the seats are more expensive than those lacking certain features, specifically the load leg. These so-called “cheaper” seats still provide significant protection, but only when installed and used correctly.
Consumer Reports still recommends consumers purchase rear-facing convertible seats by the time of the child’s first birthday to minimize the possibility of head trauma.