Putting profits before child safety

ProPublica has an investigative report that finds that the manufacturers of child car seats give recommendations about the transition to booster seats that run counter to the recommendations of the American Academy of Pediatrics. Why? Because of the obvious reason: they put profits over safety, even when it involves young children.

In February 2012, a safety engineer at Evenflo, one of the biggest sellers of children’s booster seats, wanted the company to make a major change to its instructions for parents. He recommended Evenflo stop selling booster seats for children who weigh less than 40 pounds.

Citing government research, the engineer, Eric Dahle, emailed high-ranking executives to tell them that children lighter than 40 pounds would be safer in car seats that use harnesses to hold their small bodies in place. Making the change would match Canadian regulations and better align with recommendations from the American Academy of Pediatrics.

A marketing executive “vetoed” Dahle’s safety recommendation, an internal Evenflo record shows. Later that year, the subject came up again. The same executive, who had been promoted to vice president of marketing and product development, expressed his exasperation. “Why are we even talking about this?” he wrote in an email, adding, “I have looked at 40 lbs for the US numerous times and will not approve this.

Evenflo’s decision to keep the weight recommendation for its Big Kid booster low in the U.S. was emblematic of how the company — locked in a marketing battle with its biggest competitor — has repeatedly made decisions that resulted in putting children at risk. Not only did it sell its seats for children under 40 pounds, but Evenflo touted its Big Kid boosters as “SIDE IMPACT TESTED” without revealing that its own tests showed a child seated in its booster could be in grave danger in such a crash.

ProPublica also summarizes what every child caregiver should know.

Early transitions from car seats to booster seats decrease your child’s safety. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that parents delay transitions as long as possible because each transition comes with some decrease in safety.

Children should stay in each seat until they outgrow the maximum height or weight limits of that seat. Just because your child can move from a rear-facing seat to a forward-facing seat or from a forward-facing harness seat to a booster doesn’t mean they should.”


  1. jrkrideau says

    The marketing executive would not have trained at Boeing would they?

    I would say that is one vice president of marketing and product development who should be sued personally and charged criminally if possible.

  2. Holms says

    Not only did it sell its seats for children under 40 pounds, but Evenflo touted its Big Kid boosters as “SIDE IMPACT TESTED” without revealing that its own tests showed a child seated in its booster could be in grave danger in such a crash.

    I almost admire their cheek. Mention that it was tested -- brag about it even -- so long as you neglect to mention that the product failed the tests. Good behaviour by marketing standards = douchebag behaviour by normal standards.

  3. says

    Anyone who has actually used any of these products can see, more or less instantly, that a car seat is going to do better in pretty much any accident, but especially a side impact. A car seat is a 5 point harness, a booster seat is a 3 point harness.

    The point of a booster is to make the standard car seat belt perform as well for a smaller person as it does for an adult, NOT to provide the same protection as a car seat. This is clear to anyone who is paying attention. It’s obvious from simply looking at it, and it’s made fairly clear in the language of the regulations governing when you can legally stop using a car seat. Parents, almost without exception, count down the seconds to the moment they can ditch the god damned car seat.

    We have, as a nation, decided that the three point harness is the correct trade off between convenience and safety. We could mandate five point harnesses and HANS devices for civilian transportation, and it would become almost impossible to actually die in an auto accident, but we don’t, because these systems are pains in the ass, and expensive.

    At some point, we transition our children from the increased safety of the car seat to the standard-adult safety risk model, I suspect because we just get sick of managing the harnesses, which suck. My approach to keeping my kids safe is to drive very little, which I think does in a numerical sense a lot more good than more harnesses.

    Not in love with Evenflo’s marketing, but I rarely love marketing, and it doesn’t strike me as particularly egregious in the grand scheme of things.

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