Safety is a top priority among car buyers and Toyota is engineering their product line to that end. According to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, Toyota has more Top Safety Pick and Top Safety Pick + vehicles than any other automaker.
Toyota’s design and engineering teams evaluate all of their vehicles in order to maintain such standards of safety. Recently, the automaker received further accolades with an Good+ rating for Child Safety Seat Ease-of-Use.
“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.
In 2015, IIHS established the LATCH (Lower Anchors and Tethers for Children) rating system. Child restraints can be installed properly with seat belts. However, LATCH provides easier installation when traveling with young ones. The program encourages manufacturers to design LATCH hardware that meets specific ease-of-use criteria. This is paramount for Toyota and engineers successfully meet the LATCH requirements through innovative designs.
“The dedication of Toyota’s engineers resulted in many of Toyota’s North American vehicles achieving improved ratings,” Pelky said.
The LATCH protocol and the development of the Prius ran concurrently. The Toyota seat design team capitalized, focusing on the seat itself, rather than the lower anchor wires to improve functionality. The engineers and designers sought a way to make the lower anchors as easy to use as those in other top rated vehicles.
“Some of the biggest challenges we faced were balancing ease-of-use with safety regulation requirements, comfort, and aesthetics,” Pelky said.
With newly designed deeper anchors, the Prius open-access concept received a Good+ rating, or the best possible rating from IIHS. This outcome is deeply personal for Pelky.
“As a safety engineer and a mother of two young boys, I understand that installing a child safety seat is not always the easiest task,” she said. “I’m proud to have played a role in making that part of parenting a bit easier.”
Earlier this year, we featured detailed advice from Toyota, Buckle Up for Life, and the Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center on how to keep your kids safe while driving.
Carl Anthony is Managing Editor of Automoblog and resides in Detroit, Michigan.