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US Unveils New Child Seat Ratings System

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The government is revamping a consumer ratings system for child safety seats, hoping to address confusion among parents over the wide variety of seats and installation methods. Using a five-star rating system, the new approach will assess safety seats on the ease with which the seats can be used by parents.

“We believe that the new star system will help simplify one of parents’ most important decisions: choosing the best safety seat that will protect their children,” Transportation Secretary Mary Peters said at a news conference Wednesday at a fire station in Arlington, Va.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration said seven in 10 child safety seats are either the wrong size or misused, reducing their ability to protect kids in a crash.

Transportation officials stressed that the new ratings system does not assess how effective a seat is in protecting a child in a crash, but compares the seats’ ease of use. The new system replaces an older ratings program, which used letter grades.

Seats are given an overall rating of up to five stars based on the seats’ ability to secure a child and the ease with which they are installed. The government also will consider the seats’ labeling and instructions.

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