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Car seat safety suffers as half of all families forget the Top Tether

Car seat safety suffers as half of all families forget the Top Tether
Tristan Honeywill

A car seat safety survey has revealed around half of families fail to fit child seats adequately, forgetting to tether the top. The Top Tether prevents the seat rotating forwards in a collision. With vehicle–related injuries the leading cause of death for children aged between one and ten in the UK and the US, parents should be aware of this key car seat safety measure.

reasons for not using tether

Source: Insurance Institute for Highway Safety

“This is a persistent problem,” said Anne McCartt, director of safety research for the US Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS). “Many parents haven’t got the message that the Top Tether should be used with forward facing child restraints, whether they are fitted with seatbelts or the bottom ISOFIX (LATCH) points.”

The Top Tether is an integral part of the ISOFIX (LATCH) system for forward-facing seats. It is a strap that anchors the top of a forward-facing car seat. This prevents it from rolling forward in a crash, minimising whiplash and protecting young children’s vulnerable heads and necks from injuries. On some older vehicles without the anchor points, the car seat is braced instead by a leg prop that contacts the floor.

Most parents who have cars with anchor points just don’t know they are supposed to use the tethers, however. The problem is sometimes made worse by the fact that some car seat manufacturers, including trusted names like Britax, sometimes sell the tether separately. And so most people secure the seat with just the safety belt or the lower ISOFIX anchor points.

This video shows how limiting movement in the seat significantly reduces movement of a toddler’s head and the loads acting on the neck.

 

Even the people that understand how the Top Tether improves car seat safety can find it hard to use and often install it incorrectly. Hamish McPhillips of the UK’s Transport Research Laboratory’s Child Safety Centre said: “Car makers put the anchor points in different locations and some recess them in hard-to-use places. A number put the anchor point on the floor of the luggage compartment, compromising storage space.”

Tether fitting points It is worth checking the owner’s manual and looking for the tether anchor symbol. Clear step-by-step instructions on how to attach it will be in the seat’s instruction booklet, usually found in a pocket on the seat.

If you’re still not sure, many retailers offer a free fitment service and are happy to check and advise.

Let me know below if this helps – and please share this page with friends with young families.

 

Comments

  1. Justine

    If the top tether is so often misused, is it really a design that should be encouraged? I’d say that it’s harder to forget to engage the support leg.
    Is there a comparison of the performance of the two anti-rotation devices available?
    Of course, it would be complicated and resource consuming to introduce the support leg in American seats, because their certification test sled has no floor [Can't help wondering why, actually. Do they have cars with no floors over there :D Just joking ... ] But in Europe the leg is much more widespread than the top tether, for example the extremely popular Maxi Cosi brand just launched their first top tethered [European] seat this year — the MiloFix, but has had isofix seats with legs for quite a while already, PrioriFix and Pearl.

    • Hi Justine. Good question! I’m planning to write something about changes to ISOFIX – I’ll see if I can find comparisons of the two anti-rotation devices. Need to speak to the folks at Maxi Cosi too!

  2. Top Tether is actually part of the ISOFIX system. First you need to clip the seat into the vehicle using the ISOFIX points, then you need some way to stop the child seat rotating. A lot of seats use a support leg to do this. When there’s no support leg, you should use a Top Tether to secure the seat. It’s really confusing

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