Every community could do more to promote the use of tethers. The following observations are offered as suggestions to help CPSTs get the brainstorming started.
Consistently include tethering when describing the transition from rear to forward facing. I appreciated the National Transportation Safety Board’s CPS Week blog post, which said “When children outgrow a rear-facing car seat, they should use a forward-facing car seat with an internal harness and tether.” This promotes the tether as part of the transition process and keeps it from being linked only to the LATCH system. On the word “tether,” the NTSB even provided a hot link to the SKBU tether report.
Don’t save tether talk only for caregivers of children currently using forward-facing CRs. While it’s important not to overload parents with too much information, I’d argue that tethering is important enough to mention in every interaction. So, even when I’m talking to expectant parents or those with babies, I point out the tether anchor hardware for future reference (and the tether strap, if present). We always discuss next steps with these folks, so why not mention tethering as something to expect down the road?
Include failure to use, or properly use, the tether on educational materials that list common forms of misuse. The SKBU study certainly supports that this is a prevalent mistake, but often I see this form of misuse left off of these types of listings of mistakes for caregivers to avoid.
Mention tethering first when describing how to install a forward-facing CR. Because tethering is a final step in the FF installation process, we tend to talk about it last. However, besides making tethering seem like an afterthought, there is another problem with this approach: Not every seating position has a tether anchor. Why tell the caregiver how to install a CR, and then end with a step that might not be possible in the seating position chosen? Instead, training materials should instruct CPSTs to begin describing the installation of a forward-facing CR by saying, “select a vehicle seat that has a tether anchor that can be used with the CR, per the instructions.”