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Inquiry into child seat safety faces criticism

Where would be we be if we didn't bother to ask questions? Ages ago, the general theory of the world was that it was flat and that the sun revolved around it. And then there's the observation by many historians that one reason the West Indies islands bear that name is because when Columbus reached them in the 15th century, he thought he was in India.

The point we seek to make, if it isn't already clear, is that sometimes it pays to ask questions. Why did something happen? Could it have been prevented? What do we need to do to make sure something horrible doesn't happen? These are the kinds of questions that tend to be at the heart of many personal injury actions related to product safety in Houston and the rest of the country.

That last one appears to be the root question that motivated a recent study out of Pennsylvania. A team at Robson Forensic, Inc. asked might rear-facing child car seats be safer?

To be clear, they weren't questioning whether these seats are safe. The research shows they are. No one is recommending against parents using them. The question is, could they be safer? And the researchers say they think they can.

They reached that conclusion after conducting a very limited set of tests. In them, various rear-facing car seats with infant-sized crash test dummies were subjected to mock rear-end collisions at 30 mph. What they found was that even when the seats were properly installed, there was a risk that a child could be thrust head-first into the back of the car seat they are facing. And the force exerted could result in a head injury.

The major concern they express is that, since the car seats returned to their correct position after these crashes, that first responders to an accident might not be inclined to check infant victims for trauma.

Critics of the study point to the limited number of tests and the fact that the kind of simulation used rarely happens in real life.

Granting the point, don't the results suggest that, for the sake of child safety, the question of whether seats can be made safer deserves to be asked?

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