Child Car Seat Compatibility Issues May Reduce Safety and Effectiveness: Study

The dimensions of child safety seats may not always be compatible with the dimensions of a vehicle’s backseat, according to new research that highlights how car seat compatibility problems may be placing children at an increased for injury during an accident. 

In a study published this month in the medical journal Traffic Injury Prevention., researchers from Ohio State College of Medicine’s Injury Biomechanics Research Center found that more than 42% of car seats tested were not compatible with the size and shape of the vehicles seats they may be used in, posing a potential safety issue.

Lead by Julie Bing, researchers collected data from 59 currently marketed child safety seats and 61 late model vehicles. Dimensions of both the car seats and the vehicle seats were compared in 3,599 combinations and 34 physical installations were also analyzed.

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The study revealed child car seat problems are common, with many not properly fitting inside family vehicles, reducing their safety effectiveness and leading to potential serious consequences and injuries.

Less than 60% of rear-facing safety seats resulted in a proper fit where the vehicle seat met the requirement of the car seat base angle. The width of the base of the safety seat was predicted to fit snugly between the vehicles seat pan bolsters in 63% of rear-facing safety seats and 62 percent of forward-facing safety seats.

While that may seem like high compliance rates, that also leaves a high percentage of seats that do not fit snugly or correctly in the vehicles, researchers noted.

A total of 66% of forward-facing car seats were predicted to be free of interference with the vehicles head restraint. Nearly 90% of rear-facing combinations car seats and vehicle seats were found to have enough horizontal clearance space to place the seat in the middle of its fore/aft slider track for maximum safety.

Researchers did find compatibility rates were above 98% concerning the length of the safety seat base compared to the length of the vehicles seat pan and the ability of the top tether to reach the tether anchor.

Study authors did note head restraint interference and front row clearance incompatibilities are more common among child safety seats.

Other Child Safety Seat Concerns

A recent Consumer Reports safety test revealed the high end Recaro Performance RIDE safety seat raised serious concerns for safety. During safety tests the convertible child seat in some forward facing safety tests revealed the harness of the Recaro seat loosened.

Consumer Reports is concerned about the seats ability to protect small children during a frontal vehicle crash that has similar or more severe conditions. During the test, the harness allowed increased forward movement of the head. This movement may cause a child’s head to impact various surfaces in the vehicle interior. The risk of the child being thrown from the seat was also found to be very high.

Both the manufacturer and the National Transportation Safety Board have been contacted by Consumer Reports concerning this problem.

Researchers of the Ohio State study say parents and caregivers often use towels or pool noodles to try to fit the car seat more snuggly into the vehicle seat, this may also compromise the safety of the seat and proper installation.

Despite the wide variances in compatibility between car seats and vehicle seats, researchers emphasize all car seats passed federal regulations and were deemed safe, however to optimize the safety of the seat when fit into the vehicle it is best to find a proper dimension fit.

Researchers recommend parents take measurements of their vehicle’s seats and match them with the recommended dimensions of the car seat to choose the best car seat and safest option.


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