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Recently, two Toyota engineers who are also moms set out to solve a problem that still plagues parents today. The pair created an app to help consumers properly install child car seats. Though today’s car safety measures have vastly improved, properly installing child safety seats remains an important step. This mom-developed Toyota app will do just that.

Properly installing a car seat can be tough

Hannah DeWick, 15, straps her newly adopted sister, Paisley, 2, into her car seat in a minivan in Rockport, Maine
Car seats aren’t safe unless they’re properly installed | Brianna Soukup/Portland Portland Press Herald via Getty Images

Car seats have come a long way in terms of safety. But they’re safe only if installed correctly within the vehicle. In general, car seats reduce the risk of fatal injuries by 71 percent for infants and 54 percent for toddlers under the age of 4.

According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, there are right and wrong ways to install various car seats, including rear-facing and front-facing models. Convertible seats, boosters, and all-in-one models only seem to prompt more questions about installation instead of making it easier for parents to secure their children.

The LATCH system improved things, but not everything

Lower Anchors and Tethers for Children (LATCH) legislation officially went into effect in 1999 for all new-model vehicles, and lower tether features became mandatory in 2000. The system accomplishes two objectives. First, this built-in tethering solution would eliminate seat-belt incompatibilities, simplifying things for parents faced with an assortment of car seat types. Second, the LATCH system would make the process of proper installation easier. 

Most parents are still unknowingly doing it wrong. Even with today’s LATCH systems, Consumer Reports points out that connecting seats to vehicle anchors correctly is still a chore, especially when the hooks aren’t visible. In some studies, 46 percent of installations using the LATCH system were still incorrect.

Toyota engineers who are also moms created a helpful app

Toyota engineers Jennifer Pelky and Lindsay Bavian developed Toyota for Families. This handy app shows parents how to use car seats correctly. Thanks to their experience as moms, Pelky and Bavian understood the confusion over the proper use of child safety seats, California News Times recently reported.

So during the pandemic, the two set out to develop a user-friendly tool — complete with prompts about seat type and mounting method — to take the guesswork out of safe installation. For now, the app is available for use with the 2021 Toyota Sienna. But the automaker expects to include integration in other models, too.

Car seat-friendly vehicles families will love

Though most vehicles must include LATCH systems, some car models are easier for families to use. For example, the 2021 Honda Civic earned an “Acceptable” LATCH rating from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety. But the Toyota Camry, an IIHS Top Safety Pick+, received the highest “Good+” rating in LATCH ease of use. The Hyundai Elantra and Toyota Avalon also earned “Good” IIHS ratings for their LATCH user experiences. 

Overall, car safety matters, especially where children are concerned. But those safety measures only work with proper car seat installation. Time will tell if other automakers follow suit with their own car seat apps.


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