New Car Designs Put Child Safety at Risk

The design of most new passenger cars makes it difficult to properly install child car seats, according to new research from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety. The insurance group said that only a small number of top-selling vehicles in recent model years have seat designs that are easy to use with child restraints.

Cars No Longer Built for Child Safety Car Seats

Joint research conducted by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety and the University of Michigan Transportation Research Institute revealed that child safety car seats are difficult to properly install in cars because the design of new cars doesn’t match safety requirements.

Of the 98 top-selling vehicles in 2010 and 2011 model years, only 21 have seat designs that can be easily used with car seats. According to the research report, this low percentage is notable, considering that the auto industry is using a system called Low Anchors and Tethers for Children (Latch) to make safety seats easier to install.

The insurance group said the problem stems from manufacturers not paying enough attention to how the Latch system works when designing passenger seats. As a result, most manufacturers design seats that make it difficult for parents to get the secure fit needed to ensure their children’s safety.

Auto Redesigns Can Increase Child Safety

The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety determined that the best way to ensure the safety of children riding in these seats is for automakers to redesign their vehicles.

The researchers found the low anchors (the metal tabs that are used to secure the child seat to the vehicle) were often set too deep in the seats to be easily accessible. They also determined that seat belt buckles, bolstering and other upholstery features made it difficult to secure the restraint system.

Another design issue was that passenger seats sometimes required individuals installing the car seats to make too big an effort to properly attach the child seat hardware to the lower anchors.

The insurance group explained that the adjustments should not be made by child safety seat makers, but instead, be made by the auto industry. The report went on to say that improving child restraint installations should be easy to do and can make a major difference in child safety.