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June 17,  2003

NHTSA Announces "Ease of Use" Child Safety Seat Ratings


(SafetyAlerts) -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 Safety.

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 categories:

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 rating categories.

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 vehicle models.

"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.


Source: NHTSA

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