August 1, 2007

When I Hear JPMA Supports Safety, I Reach For My EU-Certified Car Seat

toddler_crash_test_dummy.jpgProper use of a car seat is a vital and effective way to protect kids while driving. The lobbying and trade group for the Baby Industrial Complex, the Juvenile Products Manufacturers Association, says that car seat safety tests are "more severe than 98 percent of real-life frontal accidents in the U.S." Which, judging by their decade-long opposition to any tightening of testing or recall standards, is plenty safe enough.

So what does the JPMA do when a reporter looks into those other two percent of situations, or starts combing through court documents for those cases where kids have been killed or injured by car seat designs and defects that manufacturers have known about but didn't change? They spin and CYA to their constituents. This is the intro to an email forwarded to me by an executive at a JPMA member company:

We wanted to make you aware of a recent story published in the Sunday edition of the Chicago Tribune focusing on the child restraint system industry. Unfortunately, the article does not highlight all the hard work our car seat members and industry does towards the safety of this great product.

You can read the full story at:

http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/specials/chi-safety2-special,0,2160656.special

JPMA tried diligently to provide the Tribune with scientific research and data in the support of the safety of child restraints, including letters to the reporters and editor in chief. JPMA has prepared the following statement in response to the article.

JPMA Supports Safety of Child Restraint Systems Despite Recent Selective Reporting...

The Tribune article focuses on several accidents involving an extraneous plastic notch on certain models of Dorel/Cosco/Eddie Bauer car seats. Seat models that didn't use the notch still had it because Dorel didn't want to take a potential $4 million hit to sales that would result from closing the production line for eight weeks in order to update the plastic molds.

To Dorel's credit, they were the only manufacturer who agreed to participate in the article. The MBA in me can totally see the perspective they present--as well as the calculations that were revealed in internal documents. That doesn't mean they're right, just that I can see how they get to their position.

But the JPMA always seems to respond to criticism or specific data by casting aspersions and getting all defensive, vague, and big picture. When considered alongside the industry's relentless efforts to thwart any meaningful updates in safety standards or anything but voluntary self-regulation, it really damages their credibility with me as a thinking parent. I don't want to have to be suspicious and cynical and parse the official statements of the companies I'm required to do business with as a parent--especially when I rely on them to keep my kid safe.

HIDDEN HAZARDS: KIDS AT RISK -- When car-seat safety, commerce collide [chicagotribune via jpma]
JPMA Supports Safety of Child Restraint Systems Despite Recent Selective Reporting [jpma.org]
image: 12mo CRABI crash test dummy [nhtsa.dot.gov]

5 Comments

Criminy. It was just a year ago that I was stressing over what infant car seat to buy. Even though I'm tempted, I'm not dishing out hundreds of Euros to babycare.nl again. So now I'm in Domestic Convertible Seat Hell, and this fun little story of yours has put me down another level deeper.

Where can I get one of those rubber spheres of safety that Jake Gyllenhall used in "Bubble Boy"? That'd be just the ticket.

Sorry if I am missing something, it is early, but Dorel owns Maxi-Cosi so are those seats bad too? I just switched from my Maxi-Cosi infant car seat to a Britax one that is rear-facing until 55 lbs as per Swedish guidelines, btw.

[my own complaint is less with this or that seat than with a company or lobbying group that has an operating principle of fighting improved or updated safety standards. Dorel's able to succeed--and dominate--just fine in mkts with stricter gov't regs and safety standards than the US, but they and the JPMA fight them here anyway. Side impact testing is a single, easy example. -ed.]

If I'm not mistaken the seats that have the plastic notches are older models (2005 and earlier) right. So the new Cosco Maxi Cosi's should not have them.

I know the first thing I did when I read the article was check our Touriva which is a 2005 model and it does not have the notches on it.

I think it's really crappy that a recall hasn't been made for those seats that have the notches though. They could at least do the responsible thing there.

[there were 3-4 specific, older models, not even most of the Cosco or Eddie Bauers at the time. The notch was an anomaly that became a known safety hazard that Dorel decided was too expensive to fix. The uncertainties of possible lawsuit settlements made more sense than the certainties of retooling costs and 8 wks of lost sales. -ed.]

They can't recall unsafe car seats or raise safety standards because it would cut into their bottom line. They can't do better quality control testing on imported toys and components to prevent lead poisoning because it would add to production costs.
Why does it seem like all these companies are far more interested in protecting profits than protecting kids? And the fact that a company exec was all fired up to make a pre-emptive strike to a major baby gear blog to try and spin things their way just makes me distrust them even more.

[I think you're generally right, though I'd hope that someone interested SOLELY in making money would find a job in an industry with less life-threatening consquences. Also, I should clarify that the Mattel publicists' masterful pre-emptive strike involved favorably shaping that week-earlier story in the NY Times, not in passing it along to DT. And though I'm sure they're trying, I wouldn't call the Times one of the "major" baby gear blogs. yet. -ed.]

Ha...I was actually referring to YOU as one of the major baby gear blogs. The Times? Psssh.

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