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July 18, 2012

Inflatable Seatbelts Not Kool for Kids

Many car child safety-seat makers are warning parents not to strap seats or boosters in with inflatable seat belts.

However, car makers, such as Ford, say that their inflatable seat belts are safe for all rear-seat occupants. Writing about this technology, Ford said in a 2011 press release, “The advanced restraint system is designed to help reduce head, neck and chest injuries for rear-seat passengers, often children and older passengers who can be more vulnerable to such injuries.”  

Inflatable seat belts work by inflating within milliseconds of a crash to reduce the force of the impact upon the occupants’ bodies. Ford claims the belts lessen the force a body receives by 500% or more. 

As of the time of this writing there have been no reports of the belts interfering with the performance of a safety-seat or booster. Some say the seat makers are merely being cautious. Matthew P. Reed, Ph.D., research associate professor and head of University of Michigan Transportation Research Institute’s biosciences group, said, “The child restraint manufacturers are concerned that the energy of the inflating seatbelt could damage the booster or alter its performance in adverse ways. Inflatable belts are not included in U.S. federal regulatory tests of belt-positioning boosters and no standard test procedures are available to determine how they affect safety for children in boosters.”

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