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Cars Not Designed With Child Safety in Mind

The auto industry has recently come under fire from national safety groups for employing technology that can distract a driver while the vehicle is in use. New research has pointed to a problem that could increase the danger to children if a car accident occurs. Many of the top-selling cars of the last several years make it difficult to properly install child safety seats. Manufacturers are failing to account for child restraints when designing passenger seats.

Auto manufacturers use a system known as Lower Anchors and Tethers for Children, nicknamed Latch, to accommodate the use of child safety seats. The system is intended to make it easier to install a child safety seat and secure it properly. The research indicates that the system may not be working in many new vehicles. A group of experienced volunteers only achieved a secure and proper installation 13 percent of the time when asked to install a seat using nothing but the owner's manual.

Several issues likely contributed to the low success rate. The lower anchors were not visible in 62 of the 98 vehicles tested. Seat belt buckles, upholstery and bolstering (the padding used to keep you from sliding sideways while turning) made securing the restraint system more difficult. In several vehicles, substantial force was required to attach the child seat base pieces to the lower anchors.

Child safety seats are a key component to making vehicles safe for young passengers. If parents are unable to install the seats properly due to vehicle designs, the chance of injury rises if an accident should occur.

Source: Chicago Tribune, "Insurance group says car design hinders use of child safety seats," by Jerry Hirsch, 11 April 2012

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