Investigation of Child Restraint System (CRS) Compatibility in the Vehicle Seat Environment

Objective: Child restraint system (CRS) misuse is common and can have serious consequences to child safety. Physical incompatibilities between CRS and vehicles can complicate the installation process and may worsen CRS misuse rates. This study aims to identify the most common sources of incompatibility between representative groups of CRS and vehicles.

Methods: Detailed dimensional data were collected from 59 currently marketed CRS and 61 late model vehicles. Key dimensions were compared across all 3,599 theoretical CRS/vehicle combinations and the most common predicted incompatibilities were determined. A subset of 34 physical installations was analyzed to validate the results.

Results: Only 58.2% of rear-facing (RF) CRS/vehicle combinations were predicted to have proper agreement between the vehicle's seat pan angle and the CRS manufacturers’ required base angle. The width of the base of the CRS was predicted to fit snugly between the vehicle's seat pan bolsters in 63.3% of RF CRS/vehicle combinations and 62.2% of forward-facing (FF) CRS/vehicle combinations. FF CRS were predicted to be free of interaction with the vehicle's head restraint in 66.4% of combinations. Roughly 90.0% of RF CRS/vehicle combinations were predicted to have enough horizontal clearance space to set the front seat in the middle its fore/aft slider track. Compatibility rates were above 98% regarding the length of the CRS base compared to the length of the vehicle seat pan and the ability of the top tether to reach the tether anchor. Validation studies revealed that the predictions of RF CRS base angle range vs. seat pan angle compatibility were accurate within 6%, and head restraint interference and front row clearance incompatibilities may be more common than the dimensional analysis approach has predicted.

Conclusions: The results of this study indicate that RF CRS base angles and front row clearance space, as well as FF CRS head restraint interference, are frequent compatibility concerns. These results enable manufacturers, researchers, and consumers to focus their attention on the most relevant CRS/vehicle incompatibility issues in today's market.