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(National) April 6, 2005 - Two-month-old Joseph Kaplan rides in a rear-facing car seat. The American Academy of Pediatrics says rear facing is the safest position for babies until they reach the weight limit of the seat.
Consumer Reports just tested 34 safety seats. Federal standards require seats to withstand a crash test at 30 miles-per-hour.
In one crash test, one of three at less than 30 miles-per-hour, the Combi Avatar broke loose. Consumer Reports tester Kim Kleman says the latch strap that holds the seat in place ripped in half, "You can tell that the latch strap was severed. It just completely broke."
On the box, the Combi Avatar says rear-facing it can hold a child "from five pounds to thirty pounds." Thirty pounds is the weight of the dummy used in the test.
Consumer Reports rated the seat not acceptable. It's the Combi Avatar model number 8100.
The tests also found problems with the Evenflo Portabout 5. It was tested using a 22-pound dummy, which is the maximum weight recommended by the manufacturer. It rated "poor" for crash protection when used with the latch.
The seat detached from its base in two out of five crash tests at 30.4 miles-per-hour. That's just above the government's 30 mile-per-hour standard.
Kleman says that's not enough of a safety margin, "It's important to note that each of these seats performed poorly in our crash tests in their rear-facing positions when we used their latch belts. These connect directly to metal anchors in the car."
Kleman says the same seats, the Evenflo Portabout 5 and the Combi Avatar, passed when crash-tested using a seat belt rather than the latch attachment, "So if you already own one of these seats just use them with a car's seat belt, not with the latch."
If you're shopping for a new seat, these models are top rated:
The Britax Companion is $200 and it's for infants up to 22 pounds.
The $70 Evenflo Titan 5 was highly rates. You use it rear-facing at first and then forward facing for toddlers.