New Research on Car Seat Tethers Released

A toddler strapped in their car seat.

Despite progress over the years, there is one aspect of car seat safety that has seen no progress: top tether use. Tethers are used with forward-facing car seats that have a harness.

Using a top tether is essential. To understand why, think about how a car seat is installed into a car. First, either the seat belt or two lower attachments secure the bottom of the car seat to the car. That is a critical connection, but it isn’t enough.  A third point of contact, the tether, secures the top of the car seat to the vehicle to keep it from pitching forward in a crash.  Without it, that sudden forward motion can result in the child’s head hitting the back of the front seat, other occupants or even the console, causing serious harm. Clearly the top tether is a critical element of installation!

New Research on Tethers

Safe Kids released “Car Seat Tethers: Essential for Safety but Consistently Overlooked”, a new study made possible with support from Chevrolet. The study showed that from October 2015 to December 2016, 64 percent of caregivers who showed up at a Safe Kids Buckle Up Program™ checkup event with a child in a forward-facing car seat were not using a tether.

The research also shows that parents who attend car seat checkup events gain the knowledge and skills needed to safely install their child’s car seat. Without these hands-on educational interventions, however, tether use is not widely observed at community checkup events.

This report examines previous research on tethers and offers tips on how to help parents understand the importance of using tethers to increase child passenger safety.


We created an infographic to explain what a tether is, why it is necessary, and how to use it correctly. Take a look.

A colorful visual graphic highlighting the importance of tethers.

Download this infographic

Gary on the Street: Tethers

In our latest Gary on the Street, good ole Gary talks to parents to see if they understand tethers. Check it out:

Check out our YoutTube Channel

The Ultimate Car Seat Guide – now available in English and Spanish

The Ultimate Car Seat Guide is a tool, created with support from Chevrolet, to give parents helpful information on how to choose and use a car seat. It also offers parent-friendly tips on how to fit and test a child’s harness, and test whether the car seat is installed tightly enough in the car. Finally, they will learn tips to know when it is time to move to a new type of seat.

This tool is now available in both English and Spanish as a way to reach more parents with this life-saving information. Check it out!

A young child smiles happily in their car seat.

Now Available in Spanish

Car Seat Checkup Events

According to NHTSA 59 percent of car seats are not installed correctly. If a parent or caregiver wants to check to make sure their car seat is installed correctly, they can attend an event hosted by Safe Kids coalitions across the country. Certified Child Passenger Safety Technicians will guide parents on proper car seat and booster seat installation. Find a car seat event in your area.

Learn More

Find out more on car seat safety tips and booster seat tips.

Think your child is ready for a seat belt alone? Get our seatbelt tips.