A study conducted by researchers with the Center of Transportation Safety (CTS) could lead to an improved child restraint system for the nation’s passenger vehicles. The study, conducted for the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety, examined the Lower Anchors and Tethers for Children (LATCH) system.
Required by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) since 2003, LATCH is the system that includes restraint components for both vehicles and child safety seats. The use of the LATCH system was designed to increase child passenger safety; however, user error continues because of the wide range of vehicle and child safety seat designs.
“Our team was asked to analyze the ease-of-use concerns and explore ways that user error could be reduced,” Senior Research Scientist Katie Womack says. Womack is the manager of the CTS Behavioral Research Program.
CTS conducted a literature review, a human factors analysis and an expert panel workshop to identify the proper use, misuse and ease-of-use issues associated with the LATCH system.
“We authored a white paper for the AAA Foundation that summarizes the key issues related to the usability of the LATCH system,” Womack notes. “We developed a series of recommendations we felt could improve the system and increase child safety.” The white paper, entitled “Evaluating LATCH System Ease of Use and Key Features in New Vehicles,” is on the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety website.
Among the recommendations listed in the white paper are the following:
- improve LATCH availability by providing anchors in all three back-seat locations including the center back seat,
- standardize weight limits for lower anchors and tether anchors,
- require minimum accessibility and ease-of-use standards, and
- standardize child safety seat lower attachment designs.
The white paper also recommends a list of labeling requirements and clear and consistent wording in both the vehicle and child safety seat user manuals.
Officials with the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety presented the recommendations to NHTSA for further review and possible implementation. Also, as part of the LATCH project, AAA conducted a National Survey of Child Passenger Safety Technicians on the LATCH system. Womack helped draft the AAA questionnaire.