Child car seats in the crash test

Children have never been safer in cars – thanks in part to TÜV SÜD

In the TÜV SÜD crash test, child car seats have to deliver what their manufacturers promise.
Photo: TÜV SÜD

When purchasing a child car seat, parents are most concerned about safety. For 25 years, TÜV SÜD has been using crash tests to determine how car seats withstand accidents.

A test vehicle with a Golf chassis is accelerated on rails to 51 km/hour and then the brakes are put on abruptly, just like in a actual collision with another vehicle. TÜV SÜD evaluates the safety of child car seats in its crash test facility in Garching. At the moment of impact lies the moment of truth. How far does the child crash dummy fall forward? How do the seat materials react? Does the car seat stay firmly anchored?

In the early 1990s, car driving was a life-threatening for children.

In summer 2015, TÜV SÜD tested the 200th child car seat for Auto Motor Sport magazine. The results were excellent. Only one seat didn’t pass the crash test. When testing began, in the 1990s, the results were much worse. Nearly two-thirds of the seats failed safety tests.

Some seat backs broke on impact. Sometimes, the seats were dislodged from their anchor connectors or the seat belt injured the shoulder of the six-year-old crash dummy. Being taken for a ride in a car used to be life-threatening for children.  

But what makes a good child car seat?

“A good seat scores above average in consumer protection crash tests,” explains Lothar Wech, safety expert at TÜV SÜD. “It should also be comfortable for the child, and installing it in the vehicle should be easy and intuitive.”

Last December, TÜV SÜD held a conference on child restraint systems. Lothar Wech sees a paradigm shift among manufacturers: “Previously, cars were almost exclusively built for adults. But now more manufacturers are thinking about children passengers as early as the design stage.”