Let's face it, car seats HAVE to be safe and made to U.S. government standards. However, not all of the car seat companies are with the times when it comes to the most up-to-date features. A well-known and well-respected name in the car seat industry is Britax (pronounced "Br-eye-tax") and they have manufactured seats that should protect our kids in the unfortunate event of a side-impact collision.
I'm not even going to pretend that I know all there is to know about car seats, but what I can tell you is that the Britax Diplomat (pictured to the left) is the third toddler car seat we have used in the past year. The other two brands we have tested do not have the padded "wing" feature that you can see in the picture. Britax is just one of two European makers of car seats who are marketing this type of seat. From experience, I can tell you that it seems like a very sturdy, well-made car seat and in my opinion, you can't beat that extra amount of protection for that precious life you've created.
From stories that I have read, it seems that one complaint so far is that the child's view is restricted. My toddler is about 33 lbs. and 34 inches and she does just fine in the seat. It sits a little higher up than the other two seats we have used (EvenFlo and Cosco) and is a bit more compact but she has never seemed frustrated about the True Side Impact Protection (TM). If anything, the padded wings provide some extra head and neck support should she decide to take a rare nap in our vehicle.
The newly developed car seats will cost you anywhere between $150 - $300. To that I have to say, it's worth it to comparison shop. We are on the road so much more these days and if it means my child will have just a little more protection while we're out and about, well, you do the math. A lot of parents want the best stroller, I would personally opt for the best car seat considering there is a much higher fatality rate in vehicles than in strollers.
U.S. car seat companies have not planned to manufacture a seat with the side-impact feature because there is not yet sufficient test proof. The government is supposed to present some guidelines within the next few months, so, we'll have to wait and see what happens then.
In the meantime, keep your eye out for these seats. If you're on the fence at all about which car seat to purchase, take your time and do your research. I think one of the most important things you will purchase when you have a child is going to be the car seat. You will want a safe, comfortable ride for your tot and choosing one of the new Britax car seats with the True Side Impact Protection (TM) is a good place to start.
*The Britax website has a lot of valuable information and videos on car seats.
**Check out Consumers Union's Child Car Seat Fact Sheet.
***Article on the new side-impact car seats in the Wall Street Journal online.