If you have young kids, you know how important it is to keep them safe on the roads, whether as pedestrians, cyclists, or passengers. All too often, however, parents and caregivers may not know how to protect their littlest traveling companions in the most effective way. Between 1994 and 2010, roughly one-third to one-half of all children ages eight and under who were killed in motor vehicle crashes were completely unrestrained, and one-fifth to one-quarter were incorrectly restrained by only a standard seatbelt.
To promote correct and consistent use of approved child safety seats, the Lower Anchors and Tethers for CHildren (LATCH) system has been required equipment on all new vehicles since 2002. However, in the 10+ years since its inception, concerns have persisted about its ease of use, and the variations in its implementation across vehicle types and brands. In fact, our latest report, a survey of certified child passenger safety (CPS) technicians, finds that 80.5% of these experts believe errors using LATCH are not obvious to parents and caregivers, and less than half think users are more likely to correctly install a seat with LATCH than with a standard seatbelt.
We've been studying LATCH for a year now, with the goal of informing Federal updates to the rules that govern the system. In addition to the survey, our project included human factors analyses and an expert panel workshop, all designed to offer practical recommendations for improving LATCH. Among other things, these include making LATCH available in rear center seats, increasing and standardizing weight limits, and improving labeling and other information in vehicles, on seats, and in owner's manuals.
With a high number of CPS technicians reporting that they frequently encounter potentially-serious LATCH-use errors (83.9%, for example, say they often or occasionally see caregivers using LATCH with a seatbelt), it's clear there is more work to be done in this area. And with 640 children ages eight and under killed each year in motor vehicle crashes in the United States, getting this work done could hardly be more urgent.
For details about this project and our other research, please visit AAAFoundation.org.