10-year-old-dummyThe National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has introduced the newest member of its family of crash test dummies, a 10-year-old-child dummy weighing 78 pounds. An NHTSA press release says it is the best tool currently available to measure the risk of injury to a child who is using a higher-weight child-restraint system in the event of a motor vehicle accident. It will be used to make sure that new booster seats and restraints for larger children meet standards that will take effect in 2014, writes Mike M. Ahlers for CNN.com.

Ahlers writes:

‘Our new dummy is an excellent addition to NHTSA’s extensive child seat compliance testing program and will enable the agency to gather the best data yet on the performance of higher-weight child seats,’ said David Strickland, NHTSA Administrator. ‘Even as we begin to reap the benefits of this new tool, NHTSA is already looking down the road and has research under way to further improve the dummy.’

The dummy was created along with updated child safety-seat requirements to keep up with new child-restraint technologies and will provide information that has never been available before about the risk of injuries. Ahlers reports that NHTSA said there was a need for federal safety standards for the growing number of seats for larger children typically between the ages of eight and 12.

The final rule issue by NHTSA on Tuesday amended the existing federal child safety-seat standard to include seats and boosters for children weighing more than 65 pounds and up to 80 pounds. According to the press release, “The expanded standard will evaluate how well the higher-weight restraint systems manage crash energy and if the seat’s structure stays intact by incorporating the use of the dummy for the first time ever in compliance tests.” The final rule gives manufacturers two years to certify the higher-weight car seats and boosters they make to meet the new requirements.

Ahlers writes that the federal government began requiring tests of child seats in 1979 with a six-month-old child dummy and a three-year-old child dummy, and has expanded the number and sizes of crash test dummies as new state-of-the-art models have become available. Before 1979, child dummies were limited to ones representing six-year-olds. As NBCWashington.com reports, new federal guidelines encourage parents to keep children in car seats until they can fit into a seat belt properly, some time between the ages of eight and 12, when a child becomes at least four feet and nine inches tall.

Image by National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, used under Fair Use: Reporting.