tether straps 101
If you have tried to install a forward-facing car seat lately, then you know there are straps all over the place. If you or a certified child passenger safety technician installs the car seat, there is one final strap at the top of the seat that seems “extra.” But it’s not – it’s a critical piece of the puzzle, and it’s called a tether.
According to Safe Kids Worldwide, a correctly used tether keeps a forward-facing car seat from tipping forward in a crash or sudden stop, providing extra protection to the child. Without the top of the car seat secured, a crash or sudden stop can cause a child’s head to move 4 to 6 inches further than it would if the car seat was secure at both the top and bottom. Those 4 to 6 inches matter, as the child’s head could strike the seat in front of them, the console or another occupant. This could result in a serious head injury.
We have come a long way over the past 20 years ensuring children are in car seats; however, the one area of consistent misuse is around tethers. Here are a few tips to make sure you are using your tether correctly!
- Find the tether on your car seat. When your car seat is in the forward-facing position, look for the tether strap on the back of the seat where your child’s head would be. The tether is a strap with a hook on the end of it. Sometimes the tether is hidden in a small pouch or wound up with a rubber band.
- Find the tether anchor in your vehicle. All vehicles newer than 2001 are required to have at least three tether anchors. These anchors are labeled with a symbol that looks like a ship’s anchor marking their locations. It might be stamped on plastic, on a cover or next to a cloth label. This takes a little finesse as you may have to look on the back of the vehicle seat, on the rear shelf or on the ceiling. The vehicle owner’s manual will also identify where the anchors are located.
- Use the tether and tether anchor together. First install your car seat using the lower anchors or seat belt (never both together). Remember if you give a good tug the car seat should not move more than an inch side to side where the seat belt or lower attachments go through the seat. Then, find and attach the tether hook to the tether anchor, and tighten the tether strap. If the car seat moves, keep tightening. You will be surprised at how tight the car seat feels once the tether is properly installed. Any excess material in the tether strap can be rolled up and tucked behind the seat so kids don’t play with it.