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Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR)

Easy-To-Use Electric Lower Anchor Tether Winch for Child Car Seats

Project Period: 09/30/2010 – 09/29/2012
Application/Grant Number: 3R44CE001180-02A1
Principal Investigator: SEIFERT, SARA
612 803-6998


DESCRIPTION (provided by applicant): Motor vehicle crashes are the leading cause of death among children in the United States. Child restraints provide increased protection for children in motor vehicles and have been observed to reduce death and injury rates by more than 50%. A child must be properly belted into a properly installed child restraint to achieve maximum protection. Several large studies have observed that only 10% to 20% of children are correctly harnessed into correctly installed seats. One of the most common errors involves the installation of the child seat in the vehicle. In most vehicles manufactured prior to 2002, a child seat is attached using the vehicle safety belts. In vehicles newer than 2002, a child seat may be attached using the Lower Anchors and Tethers for Children (LATCH) system. LATCH is designed to make installation of child safety seats easier by providing two lower anchors at the seat bight (the intersection of the seat back and cushion) onto which a rigid or flexible strap from a child seat is attached. Regardless of attachment modality, the seatbelt or flexible LATCH tether must be aggressively tensioned (greater than 30 lbs. typically) to achieve proper installation. Recent studies have observed from 50% to 100% of inspected child restraints held in place by safety belts were too loose. Problems with loose tethers persist in the new LATCH system, and several sources list under-tensioned belts and tethers as the most common error in child seat installations. Loose child seat tethers increase the likelihood of movement of the child's head during collisions, increasing the likelihood of head impact and other traumas. The objective of this project is to develop an inexpensive power-retractable flexible lower anchor child seat tether. This powered tether will reduce the physical strength and agility required to properly install a child seat. We hypothesize that a powered tether will increased proper child seat installation rates, thereby reducing motor vehicle crash injuries and deaths among children.