Study: Most cars not suited for child safety seats

Study: Most cars not suited for child safety seats »Play Video
Here's an important heads-up for anyone who uses a child safety seat in the car - there's a good chance that seat is not installed properly, which means it may not work properly in a crash.

It's no secret that it can be a real struggle to secure that safety seat to the rear seat. And a new study out Thursday pinpoints the problem - the way those rear seats are designed.

"Automakers can do a lot to make this easier for parents," says Jessica Jermakeian of the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, the lead author of the study. "It shouldn't take brute force to put in a child restraint correctly."

The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety and the University of Michigan Transportation Research Institute evaluated the anchors and tethers used to attach safety seats.

They also watched volunteers trying to install them.

"After looking at nearly 100 top-selling vehicles, researchers found only 21 that have rear-seat designs best suited for parents to install child restraints correctly," says Jermakeian.

Volunteers were more likely to install seats correctly when the hardware was easier to use.

But the researchers found many parent's don't use the top tether to secure forward-facing seats. They thought it was optional.

"Fewer than half of the parents installed the forward-facing restraints using the tether, which is key to getting the best protection out of a child restraint," says Jermakeian.

That top tether is essential to get maximum protection in a crash. It keeps the seat in place, minimizing how much that seat moves side to side or back and forth in an accident.

Everyone wants to do the right thing. But as this report shows, it will take team work and education. Parents must understand the proper way to install a car seat. And automakers will have to work with car seat manufacturers to make it easier for parents to do it.

We have a great resource in this community - the Washington State Safety Restraint Coalition, which has experts who are ready and willing to help answer car seat questions. You'll find them on the web at 800bucklup.org or on the phone at 1-800-BUCK-L-UP.

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More info: Vehicle seat designs make child restraint installation difficult