New York (CBS/AP) - Most of the infant car seats tested by Consumer Reports "failed disastrously" in crashes at speeds as low as 35 mph, the magazine reported Thursday.
The seats came off their bases or twisted in place, the report said. In one case, a test dummy was hurled 30 feet.
Of the 12 car seats tested, Consumer Reports said it could recommend only two, and it urged a federal recall of the poorest performing seat, the Evenflo Discovery.
Evenflo issued a statement disputing the tests' validity, saying, "The magazine's test conditions and protocols appear to conflict with the collective experience of car seat manufacturers, NHTSA (the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration) and the scientific community."
To be sold in the United States, an infant seat must perform adequately in a 30 mph frontal crash, and Consumer Reports found that all but the Discovery did so. But it noted that NHTSA crash tests most cars at higher speeds — 35 mph for frontal crashes and 38 mph for side crashes — so the magazine tested the seats at those speeds.
"It's unconscionable that infant seats, which are designed to protect the most vulnerable children, aren't routinely tested the same as new cars," said Consumer Reports' senior director of product safety and consumer science, Don Mays.
Carmakers have improved the crash protection of vehicles as a result of the 38 mph tests, but there hasn't been any incentive to do it for child car seats due to the 30 mph standard, Mays told co-anchor Hannah Storm on The Early Show Friday.
"Those are actually disappointing results," he remarked to Storm.
NHTSA Administrator Nicole Nason issued a statement saying: "We are always interested in making car seats better and safer but not more complicated and difficult for parents. ... We don't want consumers misled into thinking holding a child is better than putting it into a car seat."
Nine seats failed some or all of the higher-speed tests, Consumer Reports said, while meeting the federal 30 mph standard. Another seat was judged unacceptable because it did not fit well in several cars, the magazine said.
Messages seeking comment were left with the Juvenile Products Manufacturers Association, a trade group.
The magazine tested the type of seat that faces the rear and snaps in and out of a base. It used test dummies weighing 22 or 30 pounds, depending on the seat manufacturers' claims.
In the 35 mph test, seats separated from their bases, rotated too far or would have inflicted grave injuries, Consumer Reports said. At 38 mph, four seats flew out of their bases, it said.
The only seats that passed all the tests were the Baby Trend Flex-Loc and the Graco SnugRide with EPS — expanded polystyrene foam — both selling for about $90. Consumer Reports urged parents shopping for seats to buy one of those two, but it also noted that "any child car seat is better than no seat at all."
It also said some seats performed better when attached by vehicle safety belts than when attached with the LATCH system. The system, which stands for Lower Anchors and Tethers for Children, includes belts that hook the base of a car seat to metal anchors in the vehicle.