According to the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration (NHTSA), a properly installed child safety seat (CSS) shouldn’t be able to move more than an inch from front to back or from side to side. But, as anyone who has ever installed a CSS knows, this can be much more difficult to achieve than it sounds.
In addition to the physical demands of installing a CSS, many are accompanied by byzantine, labyrinthine instruction manuals that can be more confusing than helpful. Indeed, a NHTSA 2004 survey found that a shocking 72.6 percent of car safety seats are installed incorrectly.
With the overall goal of making “safety seats that are easier to install accurately and securely,” the Center for Injury Research and Prevention at The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP)’s Jessica H. Mirman, PhD, recently partnered with Minnesota Health-Solutions (MHS), a Saint Paul, MN-based small business, to conduct a study of innovative car safety seat designs with funding from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) program.
With the ultimate goal of the project to bring a product to market, MHS partnered with Britax, a leading CSS company, to develop a new “ClickTight Installation System.” According to the Britax website, the system is “a series of components engineered to simplify the process of securing” a car seat to a car. “Installing a seat that features ClickTight alleviates both the confusion and stress that may come along with installing your child’s car seat,” the company claims. The new installation system will be incorporated in several Britax products now in development.
Using a prototype of an improved seat, CHOP researchers conducted human subject testing to determine if caregivers were able to achieve more secure and accurate installations. According to Dr. Mirman, though most car seats are installed incorrectly, parents won’t seek help if they think they installed them correctly. Additionally, car seat checkpoints are underutilized, due to the overestimation of correct car seat installation by caregivers.
An applied developmental psychologist, Dr. Mirman first joined CHOP in 2007 after receiving her doctorate from Fordham University. In addition to her child passenger safety research, Dr. Mirman also investigates teen driver safety.