Few headlines would get a parent worked up faster than “Your child seat is unsafe.” That’s the subtext in a Consumer Reports headline about a story on combination child seats. Those are forward-facing car seats with removable harnesses; the harness stays in to secure smaller children but can be removed to secure larger children in the seat with the vehicle’s seatbelt. After CR examined a number of units, the magazine said five models made by Britax, Cosco, Graco, and Harmony “break in CR’s tests.”
On most of the seats, the top tether broke or harness support hardware in the rear shell broke. The Graco Atlas 65 suffered the most serious issue, when four crashes “resulted in pieces of sharp plastic in areas that may contact the child.” That happened when the seat, rated for 65 pounds, was tested with 52- and 62-pound dummies. But CR doesn’t say if the test dummies measured any damage, or if these failures would hurt a child. CRsays near the beginning of the article that it “knows of no injuries related to the structural failures revealed in our crash tests.” We have no way of knowing if the seats are truly dangerous, or if it’s only that they can’t stand up flawlessly to tests they weren’t engineered for.