Safe Kids Finds Tether Usage Still Low

A recent study found only 36% of FF CRs are tethered—the same low rate as in 2012.

This article originated in the September/October 2017 issue of Safe Ride News.

A new study from Safe Kids Buckle Up (SKBU), Car Seat Tethers:  Essential for Safety But Consistently Overlooked, revisits the topic of tether use and misuse, comparing information from recent checkup forms to similar studies from past years.  The results show that not only does tether use continue to be very low but also shows no improvement over the past several years.  Also, among tethers that are used, misuse rates continue to be high.

Looking at checkup forms from inspection events over a 15-month period (October 2015 through December 2016), SKBU found that only 36 percent of forward-facing CRs were tethered upon arrival.   By comparison, a similar review of forms from an 18-month period from 2011 to 2012 found the exact same usage rate. So, despite modest improvement compared to an earlier 12-month period studied (2009 to 2010), when usage was found to be 28 percent, no progress has been made in recent years.

Also of concern is the frequency of tether misuse.  SKBU reports that CPSTs have seen many types of misuse among the few tethers that are attached, including attachment to hardware that’s not a tether anchor.  To assess current levels of misuse, SKBU looked at inspection forms from April to October 2016 and found that tethers that were used had some form of misuse 44 percent of the time.  Ten years ago, SKBU conducted a tether misuse baseline study, which found 46 percent tether misuse.   So, nearly half of tethers are misused, and this percentage is roughly the same today as it was a decade ago, when tethering was a relatively new practice in the U.S., and many fewer vehicles had tether anchors built-in.

The SKBU report reminds readers of the importance of caregiver education provided by the more than 40,000 CPSTs across the nation.  Those who attend checkup events might not arrive using a tether, but all are certainly educated about its use during the inspection.  And the misuse part of the study included a follow-up component to learn how many of the tethers used correctly upon leaving an event are still being used properly six weeks later.  In the 2006 study, that figure was 83 percent, while in 2016, 93 percent were using the tether correctly in the follow-up inspection. SKBU notes that this shows that CR checks with caregivers are successful at explaining the importance of tethers and changing safety behavior.

Reference: MacKay, M.; Walker, L. Car Seat Tethers: Essential for Safety but Consistently Overlooked. Washington, D.C.: Safe Kids Worldwide. September 2017.