Objectives: The objective of the study is to determine whether specific child restraint system (CRS) or vehicle conditions improve top tether attachment rates during volunteer installations. Methods: A factorial randomized controlled trial was designed to evaluate 4 different experimental categories: (1) Color of tether adjuster casing (black or red), (2) labeling on tether adjuster casing (labeled with "Tether: Use for forward-facing" or unlabeled), (3) storage location of tether (bundled in a rubber band on the back of CRS or Velcroed over the forward-facing belt path), and (4) labeling in vehicle (labeled under head restraint and below anchor or unlabeled). Ninety-six volunteers were randomly assigned to one combination of conditions. One installation per volunteer was completed. The primary outcome measure was acceptable attachment of the top tether to the tether anchor. The secondary outcome measure was overall secureness of the installation. Pearson's chi-square tests were used to identify significant predictors of acceptable outcomes and logistic regression was used to investigate interaction effects. Results: A total of 66/96 subjects (68.8%) attached the top tether in an acceptable manner, with either zero errors (n = 50) or minor errors (n = 16). A total of 30/96 subjects (31.2%) had unacceptable tether outcomes, with either major errors (n = 10) or nonuse the tether at all (n = 20). None of the 4 experimental categories significantly affected tether outcomes. Subjects who opted to install the CRS with the lower anchors (LAs) had higher rates of acceptable tether attachment compared to subjects who installed using the seat belt or those who used both LA and seat belt together (χ2 = 6.792, P = .034). Tether outcomes were not correlated with previous CRS experience, use of instruction manual(s), age, or sex. Only 15.6% of subjects produced overall correct and tight installations. Of those who used the seat belt in some manner, 70.2% neglected to switch the retractor into locking mode. Conclusions: Conditions in this study including tether color, tether labeling, storage location, and vehicle labeling did not significantly affect tether attachment rates. High rates of tether misuse and nonuse warrant further exploration to find effective solutions to this usability problem.
Keywords: CRS; Child restraints; LATCH system; child safety; child seat; misuse; top tether; usability.