Monday, April 11, 2011

NYC Taxi of Tomorrow Survey - Let YOUR VOICE BE HEARD when The Car Seat Lady meets with the NYC Taxi & Limousine Commission

Monday, April 4, 2011

The Car Seat Lady does NOT RECOMMEND the Easycarseat Inflatable Booster as it FAILED US crash testing (according to official testing results released by Easycarseat)

Easycarseat Inflatable Booster
I have recently become aware of the Easycarseat Inflatable Booster.  After having done some research, I have to admit I am very concerned - namely because the product positions the lap belt exactly where it should not be (i.e. on the soft, vulnerable abdomen) AND the seat FAILED the required US crash testing according to documents released by the manufacturer on their own website.

First, let me just say - the "inflatable" part of this product does NOT worry me.  There are many pieces of safety equipment - such as life rafts - that are inflatable, yet at the same time safe and durable.

The Easycarseat is not the only inflatable booster.  The Bubble Bum, which is available widely across Europe, will soon be available in the US too.  To highlight my point that it is not the inflatable nature of the Easycarseat booster that most worries me, I will show how the Bubble Bum is not plagued by similar problems.

Before sharing my concerns about the Easycarseat, I need to explain a few key points about boosters:

1.  Boosters are NOT restraint devices - they are POSITIONING devices
  • Car seats, where the child uses a 5 point harness, are restraint devices.  Booster seats are positioning devices - as it is the vehicle's seat belt that is restraining the child, while the booster is keeping the seat belt properly positioned.
  • Restraint devices are "load bearing" - meaning that they must be able to withstand the energy of a crash and help absorb and then transfer the remaining energy to the child's body in a way that the body can handle it.  Positioning devices are NOT "load bearing."  This is why booster seats can be made of much lighter materials - like styrofoam, plastic, and even inflatable materials - than a 5-point-harness car seat and still perform excellently in a crash 
2.  Boosters are meant to position the seat belt properly on the child's body
Proper belt fit using Volvo Built in Booster -
Hip bones shown in BLUE  (C) Volvo
  • Kids need boosters not because the law says so, but because they get unnecessarily injured in crashes when riding in just a seat belt.  It's not enough to use a booster - you have to use a booster that will position the seat belt properly on the child's body.  
  • The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety has a great section on boosters - including a list of boosters currently on the market and how well each positions the seat belt properly on a typical child's body.  I would strongly recommend checking this site if you are in the market for a new booster - or if you are curious if the booster you have is doing a good job positioning the seat belt on your child's body.  
  • Proper belt fit means that the lap belt is on the tops of the child's thighs - so that it rests on the strong hip bones - and stays on the child's thighs during a crash.  When the lap belt slides up into the soft, vulnerable abdomen, kids get a pattern of injuries known as "seat belt syndrome" - which includes lower spinal cord injuries along with injuries to the intestines, kidneys, spleen, bladder, liver and aorta.
3.  A poorly fitting LAP belt causes serious injuries - a shoulder belt that rubs the neck does NOT cause serious injuries 

Here are nine studies, amongst many, showing the dangers of a poorly fitting lap belt - specifically as a mechanism for causing injuries to the abdomen and lower spinal cord in children.


Please note, that all the information below is taken directly from Easycarseat's own website & Facebook page, videos posted by Easycarseat on YouTube, and private email correspondences between The Car Seat Lady and Kornel Kathi, General Manager for Easycarseat.  

1. The booster failed the required FMVSS213 crash tests with the 3-year-old dummy - yet they are selling this product for kids within the weight range governed by this size dummy
  • FMVSS213 - better known as Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard 213 - governs the crash testing, labeling, and other features of all car seats & boosters sold in the US.  Manufacturers self-certify their products by testing at government approved testing laboratories.  Within 1-2 years of the product hitting the US market, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration "audits" the seat - by performing their own crash tests according to the specifications in FMVSS213 to ensure that the seat complies, as the manufacturer has already stated it has.   
  • From the FMVSS213 testing data that Easycarseat released on their website, Easycarseat failed testing for both head and chest injury criteria with the 3-year-old crash test dummy.  This test was performed by MGA, a US approved testing facility that performs compliance testing for many of the car seats sold in the US.
  • According to Mr. Kathi "The approved weight for the Easycarseat is 15-36 Kgs" when used in the US (which is 33-80 pounds) - so it is being marketed and sold for children for whom it fails testing - despite the website saying that the Easycarseat passed testing "with flying colors."
  • ***Update: On 4/8/11, Easycarseat posted the following on their Facebook page: "Easycarseat 2011 USA FMVSS 213 test results are out: Easycarseat passed the crash tests with flying colours even in the 3 Year old category (from 33 pounds)".  However, nowhere do they release this new testing data.
2.  The lap belt appears to rest on the abdomen of all 4 dummies (3y, 6y, 6y weighted, 10y weighted).  In addition, the 3-year-old submarines under the lap belt during the crash test (as shown in the video below) - bringing the lap belt VERY high up on the abdomen.

  • Our child crash test dummies are NOT INSTRUMENTED in the abdomen.  This means that the dummies are unable to measure forces exerted on the abdomen by a poorly fitting lap belt - whereas we know that on REAL kids poorly fitting lap belts can cause extensive damage and injury to the child's abdomen and spinal cord.  Therefore, our best gauge of how well a booster positions the seat belt is to LOOK at how the lap belt rests before, during, and after the crash test - and to make sure it goes nowhere near the abdomen.
  • On none of the dummies is the lap belt parallel to the ground as it should optimally be in order to rest on the child's strong hip bones.  Rather, it rests flat across the lower abdomen on all the dummies.  The images below were taken directly from the FMVSS213 crash testing the company released (full document available here or here).

3.  We do not see any mention of testing of the Easycarseat in the deflated state.

4.  There does not seem to be consistency in the air distribution under the child in the crash - as evidenced by the 3 year old submarining and the weighted 10 year old ending up at a full 90 degree angle to the direction of the crash forces.
  • This movement of the dummies suggests to me that the air under the dummy shifts irregularly during the crash and turns the dummy's body - i.e. there is not consistency in the air under the child.  In a real vehicle I would be concerned that the child's head would strike the door frame/window if the body turned like the weighted 10 year old did.  
  • I am waiting to hear back from Mr. Kathi regarding what Easycarseat has done to balance the air pressure, so that it doesn't all shift to the opposite side under the weight of the child?
5.  The information given on the website and from Mr. Kathi, General Manager for Easycarseat, is INCONSISTENT.

  • The instruction manual for the booster - available here - says that for use in the US and the UK it is certified for kids from 15-36kg.
  • In a direct correspondence between myself and Mr. Kathi he reiterated that for use in the US it is certified for 15-36kg.
  • Yet, in one, and only one, location on the website it says it is for use from 52-80 pounds in the US. **Update - as of 4/8/11, the website has been changed and it says that the booster is for kids 33-80 pounds in the US.  

What has The Car Seat Lady done in response to our concerns about the Easycarseat? (after all, we have a responsibility to make sure kids are riding as safely as possible!)
  • We immediately contacted the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration to make them aware of this product and our concerns.  They are now aware of this product and will further pursue the issue with the manufacturer.
  • We contacted the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety who is now aware of this product and will hopefully be able to include it in their Fall 2011 assessment of booster seats by best/good/poor belt fit. 
But what about the Bubble Bum Booster?  It's also inflatable. Is it safe?
  • Bubble Bum allowed The Car Seat Lady to view the official FMVSS213 testing results of the Bubble Bum; and it passed the testing.  Not only that, but it has been tested in every configuration both inflated AND deflated - and passes all crash tests, even when deflated. The Bubble Bum is tested to both the latest European (ECE 44.04) & American (FMVSS 213) standards - and passes ALL of them.  
  • Bubble Bum's FMVSS213 testing was done by MGA and included pre and post test pictures of the dummies - and I could see that the lap belt started low and stayed low on the tops of the dummy's thighs - just as is shown with the 10-year old pictured above in the Bubble Bum (showing good belt fit).

  • The Bubble Bum is more than just an air chamber.  There is memory foam inside the air chamber which allows for an even distribution of air under the child's body.  Under the fabric cover there is a structural support system made of seat belt webbing (see picture).  The lap belt guides are made of metal and are sewn directly to this seat belt webbing support system - NOT to the air chamber (which decreases the chance of the seat belt puncturing the booster in a crash). 
  • Unlike on the Easycarseat where the air release valve is within easy reach of the child, the valve on the Bubble Bum is out of reach of the child.  
  • When deflated, the Easycarseat is completely flat - the Bubble Bum is NOT (it is almost an inch deep) due to the memory foam inside the air chamber - which, along with the lap belt guides being separate from the air chamber, allow it to provide good belt fit even in the worst case scenario of it being deflated.
Since the Easycarseat website was very difficult to navigate, I have downloaded and compiled the following Easycarseat documents into this Google Documents folder so you can review them for yourself more easily.  They are also available from the company's website (see all the links below)
Instruction Manual for US/UK:

FMVSS213 testing
- This had been available at this link - - but after we posted this blogpost, the company removed the FMVSS213 test results.  You can still view them here:

ECE44.04 testing (includes TUV & Dekra)

DISCLAIMERThe Car Seat Lady is NOT AFFILIATED with Easycarseat OR Bubble Bum in any way.  We have not received any monetary compensation or gifts from either company.  We did receive one Bubble Bum booster free of charge from the manufacturer for our expert review.  We are NOT paid in any way for our comments on this blog post or any other for that matter.  Therefore, you can trust that we are giving you our expert, unbiased opinion.