Investigation exposes practices of child car-seat maker

| Feb 13, 2020 | Catastrophic Injuries |

ProPublica, an investigative journalism organization, has published an investigation into the testing and marketing practices of Evenflo, a baby products company, in designing, testing and selling its automobile booster seats.

After ProPublica published the findings, a House subcommittee announced it will probe the manufacturer. “In the absence of a federal standard for side-impact crashes, Evenflo made up its own booster seat tests, and passed itself,” editor of the ProPublica article told ABC News.

Regulation fails first and abuses follow, report finds

Congress required the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) to work on reducing child injuries from side-impact crashes. The law ordered NHTSA to put new rules in place for designing and testing side-impact protection for car seats and boosters.

That law is now about two decades old, and regulators have still not put standards in place for side impacts. Meanwhile, such impacts were responsible for the deaths of more than a quarter of the children killed in vehicle crashes in 2018, the most recent year of data available.

Secret documents and videos clash with marketing

ProPublica, an investigative journalism organization focused on the public interest, has published an investigation into the testing and marketing practices of Evenflo, a baby products company, in making and selling its car booster seats for children.

The journalists obtained a large trove Evenflo’s test videos, sworn testimony of employees and a collection of marketing materials, earlier kept secret from the public.

Advertising “impact tested” while ignoring the test results

The documents show, for example, what ProPublica describes as marketing executives repeatedly “vetoing” a company safety engineer who warned their seats were appropriate for a narrower range of children than the company claimed.

ProPublica highlights what it says is the prominence of the word “safety” in the design of the boxes for Evenflo boosters, and especially of claims that the seats are “side impact tested.”

Startling videos also obtained by ProPublica show child-sized test-crash dummies moving in ways that an independent expert testified “could lead to abdominal, brain and spinal injuries in a real child, including paralysis or death.”

A company technician testified that in 13 years he never performed one side-impact test the company deemed a failure. One engineer for the company said in sworn testimony, “We side-impact test our seats, but I don’t think we say that we offer any type of side-impact protection.”