Booster seat brand raises safety concerns after video of dummy being thrown in test crash

Chelsea Ritschel

A popular booster seat brand has sparked an investigation into its safety claims after a video showing a dummy being violently thrown upon impact during a crash test.

In the video, obtained by ProPublica, a child-sized dummy seated in an Evenflo Big Kid booster can be seen launched to its side by a side-impact to the vehicle.

However, according to the company, the booster seats in question pass side-impact crash testing because they perform as they are designed to do.

“Side-impact tested: meets or exceeds all applicable federal safety standards and Evenflo’s side impact standards,” a description of the car seat on Evenflo’s website reads.

But, according to ProPublica’s investigation, an engineer for the company “would later admit in a deposition if real children moved that way, they could suffer catastrophic head, neck and spinal injuries - or die”.

According to one family, who are now suing the car-seat company, that is exactly what happened to their five-year-old daughter Jillian.

Speaking to CBS News, Lindsay Brown recalled how Jillian had been sitting in one of the Big Kid booster seats when her car was hit on the driver’s side in 2016.

According to Brown, who was also driving her other daughter Samantha, she immediately turned around to check on her daughters following the crash - at which point she saw Jillian “hunched over”.

Car seat company faces safety concerns over test dummy video (Evenflo)

The five-year-old was internally decapitated by the crash and left paralysed from the neck down, the family told the outlet, while Brown and her other daughter recovered from their injuries.

When questioned about the injuries obtained while in the booster, the company said the seat “performed as designed” and that the child’s injuries were “primarily due to the severity of the crash and/or driver error,” according to CBS News.

The videos of the crash tests have now prompted experts to question the company’s safety claims, with Dr Ben Hoffman, a lead author of car seat recommendations for the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) telling the outlet that he would describe them as “horrific”.

“I think the word that I used to describe them initially was horrific. Human beings just aren't built to survive that amount of movement,” he said.

One issue with the car seat is the weight requirement, with the company originally advertising the booster as being appropriate for children that weighed a minimum of 30lbs.

The weight minimum was later changed to 40lbs, although CBS News reports that people who already owned the booster seat were not notified.

Another issue is the lack of harness on the booster seat, despite seats with harnesses fairing better in crash tests.

According to the AAP, “infants and toddlers should ride in a rear-facing car safety seat as long as possible, until they reach the highest weight or height allowed by their seat,” and once they are facing forward, “should use a forward-facing car safety seat with a harness for as long as possible.”

As of now, the car seat is still being sold on Evenflo’s website.

The Independent has contacted Evenflo for comment.