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IIHS and Toyota Lead the Charge in Making Better Child Safety Seat Anchors

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Prius LATCH Anchors

Photo: © Toyota

Car safety is constantly improving and one of the reasons behind it is the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS). The IIHS doesn’t just rate vehicles for safety—it pushes them to perform better each year by regularly introducing stricter requirements for its coveted Top Safety Pick or Top Safety Pick+ designation.

In 2015, the IIHS added a criterion for Child Safety Seat Ease-of-Use to encourage automakers to design LATCH (Lower Anchors and Tethers for CHildren) hardware that makes child safety seats easier to install. Toyota was one of the first to take action.

We began by going through our North American vehicles one by one, identifying the issues and prioritizing the solutions that had the biggest impact and could be implemented quickly,” said Jennifer Pelky, senior engineer at the Toyota Technical Center and a Certified Child Passenger Safety Technician. “Some of the biggest challenges we faced were balancing ease-of-use with safety regulation requirements, comfort, and aesthetics.”

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Toyota engineers found that deeper anchors could be made easier to use by making the access openings larger.Photo: © Toyota

Toyota engineers found that deeper anchors could be made easier to use by making the access openings larger.
Photo: © Toyota

Thanks to this, many of Toyota’s North American vehicles have received improved ratings; in fact, the automaker now has more vehicles rated as Top Safety Pick and Top Safety Pick+ than any other. Its engineers also came up with an interesting design for the Toyota Prius.

Because the development timing of the Prius clashed with the timing of the LATCH protocol release, it was too late for Toyota to work on improving the usability of the lower anchor wires. Instead, the seat design team chose to focus on the seat itself, the goal being to make the lower anchors as easy to use as the ones in other “Good”-rated vehicles. They ultimately found that if the access to them was large enough, deeper anchors could be as easy to use as closer ones, and from there the Prius’ open-access concept was born.

As a result, the Toyota Prius received the IIHS’s best possible rating in the Child Safety Seat Ease-of-Use category: Good+. Nice going!

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