A Chicago father's home video that apparently shows the failure of multiple child safety seats is getting some high-level attention.
Initially, Bryan Dussault said he wasn't surprised when he took a call last fall from his mother-in-law, who reported having difficulty with one of the straps on the Safety First Vantage Booster Car Seat, made by Dorel Juvenile Group of Columbus, Indiana.
That changed when he inspected the seat himself and found that it was impossible to secure a child in the seat because the strap wouldn't hold.
"I had a little bit of a tough time with the strap. Ultimately, I got it adjusted, but then was able to pull the harness loose without touching the levers again. That told me something was really wrong," Dussault said.
Making matters worse, he was able to duplicate the problem on another car seat of the same make and model that was in his own car.
Dussault said he reported his concerns to Dorel, which immediately responded. The company asked him to return the two problems seats and they would be replaced.
But when he got the new seats, he said the first one failed straight out of the box.
"First thing I do is I get the seat out and test the latch, the harness latch and the first one fails," Dussault said. "These failed before they were ever even in a car. They probably failed on the factory floor, in my opinion."
Dussault, who is not a product engineer or safety seat expert, says he contacted the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration as a concerned parent and filed reports on the perceived failures. He also turned on his home video camera, and used an Elmo doll to show what he sees as a serious safety risk.
To Dussault's disappointment, he said the NHTSA didn't immediately respond to his complaint until he started blogging about the problem online.
He also let a safety inspector from The Safety Squad, a Chicago-based, for-profit safety inspection business, inspect the seats.
"I saw two seats that I don’t think would hold a child in a crash. That should not happen," the inspector, Tom McQueen, told NBC Chicago.
A spokeswoman for Dorel said the company turned the seats over to NHTSA once it got them back from Dussault. The NHTSA confirmed that inspectors from the agency have screened the seats in question, but there's no word yet on when organization will make a determination on the safety risks alleged by Dussalt.
Dorel's Full Statement:
Dorel Juvenile Group is fully committed to quality and safety. We dedicate millions of dollars each year to quality control and to operate world–class testing equipment as we strive to deliver products of the highest reliability.
We welcome all feedback regarding our car seats. Mr. Dussault’s comments concerning the Safety 1st Vantage car seat harness adjuster have been taken most seriously.
Specifically, we offered to conduct a full evaluation of these car seats at our state-of-the art testing center in Columbus, Indiana. We planned to have our safety team conduct a macroscopic, dimensional and functional evaluation of the harness adjusters, and to study each part of the car seats in question very closely against each of our technical specifications. However, since the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has asked to see the seats first, a routine request in such a matter, we have obliged by sending the seats in question to them.
There have been no reported injuries or incidents concerning the Safety 1st Vantage car seat.
Dorel’s car seat testing methods are very stringent, and 100% of the harness adjusters are proof-loaded to a significant force - over 150 pounds - to ensure real-world safety. Dorel’s car seats also meet all of the government crash test safety standards.