June 17, 2003
NHTSA Announces "Ease of Use" Child
Safety Seat Ratings
-The U.S. Department of Transportation?s National Highway Traffic Safety
Administration (NHTSA) today announced its initial set of ratings for child
safety seats based on their ease of use.
The first-ever results were released at a news conference in Washington
involving NHTSA, Consumers Union, and the Insurance Institute for Highway
Under NHTSA?s new rating system, child safety seats ? including booster
seats ? are given an overall ease-of-use rating at the "A," "B," or "C"
level. Such letter grades are also used to rate seats in each of five
Whether the seat is pre-assembled or requires assembly after purchase.
Clarity of labeling attached to the seat.
Clarity of written instructions on the seat?s proper use.
Ease of securing a child in the seat.
Whether the seat has features that make it easier to install in a vehicle.
"The new rating system is not only helpful to consumers, but also provides a
strong market incentive to child seat manufacturers to make further
improvements to their products," said NHTSA Administrator Jeffrey W. Runge,
M.D. "Overall, the ratings are positive, but there is room for improvement.
Ultimately, we hope all seats will achieve an "A" rating."
To date, 68 seats have been rated by NHTSA, representing about 95 percent of
the seats available to consumers. Convertible seats were rated in both the
rear-facing and forward-facing mode and combination seats were rated in both
the forward-facing and booster modes. Thirty-nine overall "A" ratings were
given and 68 overall "B" ratings were given. While no seat received an
overall "C" rating, several received a "C" rating in one or more individual
The new child safety seat ease-of-use rating system is in response to the
Transportation Recall Enhancement, Accountability, and Documentation (TREAD)
Act of 2000.
Also at the news conference, the three organizations said that the new child
safety seat system known as "Lower Attachments and Tethers for Children"
(LATCH) is making child safety seats easier to use, but there are some
implementation issues that still need to be addressed. NHTSA, Consumers
Union and the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety all indicated that this
system has made child safety seats easier to use. However, all expressed
concern that some new LATCH seats can be difficult to install in certain
"With literally thousands of combinations of vehicles and seats, it is
understandable that some compatibility issues would arise, particularly
during the early years of the LATCH system phase-in," said Dr. Runge, noting
that NHTSA plans to meet soon with manufacturers to help identify and
resolve any remaining compatibility issues.