The following was produced in partnership with our friends at Britax and their new Advocate convertible car seat featuring revolutionary ClickTight technology that makes car seat installation fast, easy, and secure.
Being a parent means constantly wondering if your best is good enough. Installing a car seat, on the other hand, apparently means declaring “good enough” is the best you got. Studies show up to 96 percent of parents believe they use their car seats correctly despite evidence that 3 of 4 seats are misused. It gets worse — other studies indicate misuse rates as high as 90 percent at hospital discharge (you know, the first ride of your kid’s life). Meanwhile, zero percent of parents admit they’re not exactly sure if the car seat is in correctly, so one company decided to engineer an installation system that eliminates the guesswork.
The company is Britax, and the system is called ClickTight. It’s fast, easy, and secure for nearly every vehicle make and model and car seat configuration, made in the U.S.A., and it’s approved by 96 percent of parents for mother-in-law use (that’s back-of-the-envelope math on the last one).
Britax began the development of ClickTight by investigating the pain points of car seat installation and most common misuses. “People do their best, but even the most well-meaning, best educated people still get it wrong one way or another; certainly, an inexperienced parent won’t know everything” says Joyce Kara, Britax Director of Product Marketing. “Second row, third row, all kinds of configurations, so many different vehicle types, threading the seat belt correctly and having it pretty tight but not quite enough — I’ve been a technician and instructor for 12 years and I am continuously learning.”
See? Car seat technicians, they’re just like us!
One of the most common misuses was the car seat base being too loosely connected to the vehicle seat, which Britax attempted to address by making car seat installation as simple as snapping on your own seat belt. They started by developing an open belt path design — the seat opens like a clamshell, allowing you to see the belt cross from one side to the other. That’s as opposed to the more common, plastic-enclosed tunnels that make you thread the belt through blindly and pray it doesn’t crimp or twist before coming out the other side.
That was simple enough, but then Britax engineers had to tackle a surprisingly vexing installation challenge: ensuring the belt retains its tension so it’s “locked off” and won’t become loose. All cars and most car seat manufacturers provide systems for doing this, but they’re often complicated, confusing, or both. Also, Britax knows what you did with that instruction manual.
“People don’t read instructions or know how to use [the lock-offs],” Kara notes, “so even if you install it correctly, if you don’t lock the seat belt it loosens on its own.”
The solution was to eliminate the seat belt wrestling match entirely by inventing a self-tensing system that’s essentially one big lock-off. That’s where the ingenious clamshell design comes back into play. After you thread the belt through the gloriously open belt path, snapping the seat back into place creates tension on the belt. This ensures that the belt always acts like it’s snug across a normal-sized person’s lap, and remains firmly locked in place. And you never have to learn what a retractor is.
“You press and turn a dial and it opens, you lay the belt across the path and buckle it, and you close the mechanism to lock it. That’s it,” says Keith Nagelski, Director of New Product Development & Engineering at Britax. “We went through many calculations and tests and iterations to figure that out, to get the right tension and fit, but the end result is simply that easy.”
In fact, it may even be easier than LATCH, the standardized set of anchor points for securely installing child safety seats, which has been required for all cars sold in the U.S. since 2002. LATCH was created to simplify car seat installation in an automotive marketplace with nearly infinite seat and seat belt configurations, and it works fine … so long as you know exactly what the specific weight limit is for your make and model’s anchors (bet you didn’t know it differs from car to car!), AND you know exactly how much your kid and car seat weigh together. This week, not last week. Even if you’re on top of all that, guess what comes after the weight limit is exceeded? Yup, seat belt installation.
“Car seat and vehicle manufacturers have consistently engineered and improved their products to be crashworthy but the end users — parents — play an equally important part in protecting children in cars,” notes Lorrie Walker, a training and technical advisor at the consumer watchdog Safe Kids Worldwide. “Parents cannot take a car seat out of the box and plug it in like a toaster.”
Maybe not — everyone knows fresh kids don’t need to be toasted, anyway — but Britax has at least made it possible for parents to take a car seat out of the box and snap it in like a seat belt.
This article was produced in partnership with our friends at Britax and their new Advocate convertible car seat featuring revolutionary ClickTight technology that makes car seat installation fast, easy, and secure.