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Directions in Highway Safety Cover - Summer 2012 Download Newsletter pdf
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Summer 2012

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Study Shows the Hassles of Correct Child Restraint Installation

The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) has released a new study examining the challenges associated with installing child restrains correctly. The study concludes that vehicle seat design makes correct child restrain installation difficult. IIHS worked with the University of Michigan Transportation Research Institute (UMTRI) to conduct the study.

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Researchers looked at the ease of use in the vehicles’ LATCH (Lower Anchors and Tethers for Children) system, which since 2002 has required standard anchor points (one top tether and two attachments at the base of each side of the seat) to be manufactured into new cars in the United States. They also asked parent volunteers attempt to install specific child restraints into a variety of vehicles.

LATCH hardware was evaluated based on three criteria associated with correct lower anchor use: depth, clearance and force. Only 21 of 98 popular vehicles surveyed had systems that met the researchers’ criteria of making it easier to correctly install restraints. Belt buckles and other seat hardware often blocked the child restraint anchors, or anchors were so buried in the seat that they became difficult to access.

The parent volunteers experienced these challenges firsthand when attempting to install child restraints into the vehicles. Overall, they correctly installed seats with both lower anchors and top tethers to get a tight, secure fit at the right angle in just 13 percent of the cases. Researchers found that the primary issue with top tethers was lack of knowledge, noting that many parents were not aware that they needed to use the top tether.

IIHS has published a video that illustrates the type of installation issues experienced by the study volunteers and show simulated crash tests of child restraints installed correctly and incorrectly.

For more information, including a link to the research paper, visit