At least 45% of parents and caregivers are not using their child's car seat top tether correctly. That's a huge number considering how important top tether use actually is. Read on to find out why and to see if your car seat is installed correctly.
It's probably apparent by now that I take car seat safety pretty seriously. I've written about the subject many times and I just can't help but get fired up about it. My children are my world and I don't think I could live with myself if something happened to them because I installed their car seat incorrectly. That's why I want to take a moment to discuss top tether use. I was strolling through the parking lot of a popular store the other day and as I was watching parents load and unload children out of their vehicles, I noticed that I couldn't see the top tether straps on several seats. Like a creeper, I even peeked into the windows of a few cars to see if maybe the straps were routed underneath a headrest and I just couldn't overtly see them. Nope. They just weren't being used.
I think a lot of people think that using the LATCH system in the car just means they plug those handy dandy clips into their vehicle's lower anchors and they're good to go. That's false, and here's why - LATCH stands for Lower Anchors and Tethers for CHildren. That TETHER part is pretty important, yet often overlooked. In 2006, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) did a survey that showed that 55 percent of child safety seats, located in a seat position equipped with an upper anchor, were attached to the vehicle using an upper tether when 2 appropriate. That means 45% were NOT using the tether.
What is the Top Tether and why do you need to use it?
The top tether, also known as the tether strap, is located at the top rear of convertible child safety seats, forward-facing toddler seats and combination seats, and is designed to secure the car seat to a tether anchor. There are a few car seats that allow you to utilize the top tether in the rear-facing position (like one of my favorites - Diono - you should check your manual to be sure), but this is mostly for forward-facing seats. The tether anchor is located in different locations, based on the type of vehicle and spot in the vehicle. For example, in a sedan, the tether anchor may be located on the rear shelf behind the headrests. In an SUV, with double row seating in the back the tether anchor may be located in the floorboard behind the seats. All you need to do is hook the top tether to the tether anchor. If your car is from 2002 or older than it may not have a tether anchor, if that's the case, you can have one installed. Once you have installed your car seat correctly, you should only be able to move it one inch or less from side to side and front to back.
So, how does it protect your child? The purpose of the top tether is to secure the top of the car seat so that forward and side movement is reduced. According to Britax, top tether use can reduce the distance that your child’s head moves forward in the event of a crash by 4 to 6 inches, thereby minimizing the risk of injury. Some people have noted that their child's head hit the back of the front seat during a crash. Just imagine the damage that can be caused to a small child by this sudden movement.
By law, you don't have to use the top tether to secure your car seat, but why wouldn't you? If you can reduce the injuries sustained by your child during a wreck, especially head injuries, wouldn't you do what it takes? Take the time to properly install and secure your child's car seat so that should the unthinkable happen, you'll have the peace of mind that your child was as protected as he or she could be. As always, I'd recommend visiting your local CPST to ensure your car seat is installed correctly.
Are you using the top tether correctly?
I'd love to know!
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If you're looking to purchase a new car seat, be sure to check out our Graco Extend2Fit 3-in-1 Convertible Car Seat review, our Graco 4Ever Extend2Fit 4-in-1 Convertible Car Seat review, and our Graco SlimFit Convertible Car Seat review. If you've got a little baby, we've also got a Graco infant car seat review. We've also got some Graco products featured in our best baby products of 2017 list.
We are also fans of the Britax brand, and we'd love for you to check out our post about anti-rebound bars featuring the Britax Boulevard ClickTight, and our post about car seat installation tips featuring the Britax Advocate ClickTight.
If Diono car seats are on your list, then we've got full reviews of the Diono Radian RXT, a post about traveling via plane with the Diono Rainier, and why car seats and coats don't mix featuring the Diono Radian RXT as well.
Disclosure: Amazon links are affiliate links. Main image credit: Adobe Stock/Monkey Business