5 On Your Side

New car seat feature offers leg up on child safety

Posted November 10

A safety feature common in Europe is making its way to infant car seats in the U.S.

The feature's run in vehicles across the pond means there's already proof that it works. Consumer Reports says child seat safety progress is continuing with the design called a "load leg." 

Today's car seats are a lot different from those from 40 years ago, when Consumer Reports started testing them. All the changes, though, have dramatically improved safety.

The most recent improvement is called the load leg, which extends from the base of the infant seat to the floor, making the seat more stable.

In recent Consumer Reports tests, four seats with load legs received the highest performance rating in a simulated 35 mph crash test.

Side-by-side crash test video shows how similar seats from the same manufacturer perform with and without the load leg. Both performed well, but the seat with the load leg has less forward motion than the one without it. 

"In our crash tests, seats with a load leg resulted in almost a 50 percent decrease in head injury risk to the dummy compared to seats without it," said Consumer Reports' Emily Thomas.

Even though the load leg adds a step to the installation, Consumer Reports found it easy to use.

But of course you'll pay a premium for the new feature: Prices range from $250 to almost $400.

While Consumer Reports says all seats are safe when used and installed correctly, but seats with a load leg feature offer an additional margin of safety.

Consumer Reports warns, though, that not all American cars are designed to work with this new style of car seat.

If you're considering an infant seat with a load leg, be sure to check your vehicle manual for any restrictions.

Another note, rear-facing infant seats typically offer the best fit for children under 1 year old.

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