Child's death prompts car seat concerns

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November 24, 2013 10:04:34 AM PST
All parents want the best protection for their children when they're riding in the car. But what consumer reporter Nydia Han found may have you checking your child's car seat - and then buying a brand new one.

You might think any and all car seats on the market are safe since they must meet federal standards. But one Pennsylvania mom says that is not the case at all. After the tragic death of her baby - she now believes some seats offer far more protection than others.

"She was always happy and giggling. She'd laugh at the ceiling fan... She was a good baby," Darla Johns said of her daughter Aryn.

But when she was only four-months-old, Aryn Miller died from injuries she suffered in a car crash.

"There's nothing I can ever do to bring her back or make her better."

So instead, Aryn's mom is speaking in an effort to help other families. She believes her baby's death could have been prevented and is now sending a very important message.

"You really do need to make sure you have a good car seat."

During the crash, Aryn was riding in a car with a 3-point harness. The family has now filed a lawsuit alleging the seat was defective.

"Starting with the flimsy padding... and the handle that protrudes up and gets in the way of someone's head during a frontal collision," attorney Stewart Eisenberg said as he pointed out problems with the car seat model.

The Miller family's attorney also blames the three-point harness: "This seat belt is totally, totally inadequate."

Eisenberg and safety experts recommend a 5-point harness for your child's cars seat. It restrains a child's shoulders and hips.

Eisenberg says the three-point harness on Aryn's seat allowed her body to shift upward during the crash.

"She hit the handle on the car seat and it crushed her skull and she died," he said. "If she was properly restrained, she wouldn't have moved at all... she wouldn't have been injured."

A 5-point restraint is required in Australia and New Zealand but not in the U.S.

So while the particular brand of car seat Aryn used is no longer available in the U.S., other car seats with a similar 3-point restraint are still widely available since they do meet minimum U.S. safety standards.

"Complying with minimum standards doesn't mean the car seat is safe," Eisenberg cautions.

The manufacturer of the car seat Aryn was riding in denies the seat was defective, but Aryn's mom and safety experts say another thing that was lacking were large, close-fitting, deeply padded side wings. They say these padded wings are another critical feature.

Meantime, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration says it expects a "new side impact test to be issued later this year" and it "continuously evaluates... child passenger safety and child restraint designs, and updates the standard as needed to address a safety issue."

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