Video shows a baby-sized dummy being violently thrown around during crash test in a car booster seat


Parents have raised fears after safety claims made by a maker of children’s car booster seats were called into question when a crash test video emerged showing a dummy being violently thrown around.

Video obtained by ProPublica reveal Evenflo’s Big Kid booster seat passing a side-impact crash test – despite the child-size dummy lurching sharply away from the seat and the head jerking to the side. 

Side-impact crashes were responsible for more than a quarter of deaths in children aged under 15 in 2018 and are more likely to result in serious injuries than head-on crashes.

Dr Ben Hoffman, a lead author of car seat recommendations for the American Academy of Pediatrics, told ProPublica he was horrified by the crash test video. 

‘I think the word that I used to describe them initially was horrific. Human beings just aren’t built to survive that amount of movement,’ he said.

Hoffman said he would not want his child to use a seat that performed in such a way. ‘There’s no way I would want a child who I know or knew or loved to be put into a scenario like that,’ he said.

Evenflo one of the biggest sellers of children’s booster seats, has said on its website that it conducts rigorous tests that simulate realistic side-impact crashes. 

Though Evenflo’s Big Kid booster meets federal standards, there is no standard set for side-impact crash testing – allowing companies to set their own rules.

During depositions obtained by ProPublica, Evenflo employees said the only way to fail the company’s side crash test is if the dummy is thrown from the car seat or it breaks into pieces. 

‘We side-impact test our seats, but I don’t think we say that we offer any type of side-impact protection,’ one employee said.

ProPublica’s investigation found that Evenflo marketed its booster seats for some children who experts fear could be too small to be adequately protected in such crashes.

Lindsay Brown’s 5-year-old daughter Jillian suffered life-changing injuries when the car they were travelling in was involved in a collision near their home in Long Island in 2016, CBS reported. 

Although Lindsay’s other daughter Samantha was sitting closer to the impact on a different car seat, she and Lindsay both recovered from their injuries. 

Jillian was internally decapitated and left paralyzed from the neck down. She will not recover from her injuries and is kept alive with a ventilator.  

The Browns are now suing Evenflo, who say Jillian’s booster performed as designed and her injuries were primarily due to the severity of the crash or driver error. 

The car seat meets or exceeds federal standards, which set a 30-pound minimum for booster usage. The Browns say Jillian was 37 pounds at the time of the crash.     

Eric Dahle, an Evenflo engineer suggested in February 2012 that the company stop selling booster seats for children who weigh less than 40 pounds, ProPublica reported. He emailed executives saying that lighter children would be safer using car seats with harnesses. 

A marketing executive refused to approve the recommendation, an internal Evenflo record shows. Months later, the executive, who had been promoted to vice president of marketing and product development,  wrote in an email: ‘Why are we even talking about this? I have looked at 40 lbs for the US numerous times and will not approve this.’  

A spokeswoman for Evenflo told ‘Evenflo feels great sympathy for families and children involved in motor vehicle crashes, especially where serious injury occurs while a child is seated in a car seat we manufactured.

‘Evenflo defends the Big Kid seat in the Brown case because our product performed as it was designed to do and did not cause the child’s injuries – the severity of the crash and/or driver error did. Indeed, the crash underlying the Brown case is more severe than 98% of all side-impact crashes.

‘The Big Kid complies with applicable safety regulations and Evenflo’s side-impact standard, which was created by Evenflo in the mid-2000s so that Evenflo could test its seats in scenarios beyond that required by the federal government’s frontal-impact testing. There is still no federal requirement to side-impact test car seats. Accordingly, Evenflo tests seats under the far-side testing protocol it has developed, as it continues to believe that this testing advances child-passenger safety.

‘The company receives praise from consumers in all kinds of accidents with children of all sizes, including those under 40 lbs.’

 Evenflo also submitted a full statement to CBS. 


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