Behavioural Evaluation of Child Restraint System (CRS) Label/Warning Effectiveness

July 2002
TP 13987 E
Prepared by:
Christina M. Rudin-Brown
Mike Greenley
Andrea Barone
Joe Armstrong
Alice Salway
Beverley Norris

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Transport Canada is in the process of updating its standard for the adhesion properties of child restraint system (CRS) labels and warnings.  At the same time, the U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has proposed changes intended to make CRS labels and instructions clearer and simpler to understand.  Transport Canada is very supportive of this objective, and is also considering amending its label requirements.  Based on a passive evaluation of CRS labels, NHTSA made a number of proposed changes to their existing label requirements.  To complement these passive evaluations, the present study compared the effectiveness of four different CRS label conditions on actual users' CRS installation behaviour.

The four label conditions included:

  1. no labels;
  2. the manufacturer labels ('Consumer'; these labels conform to the current requirements for labeling of the Canadian Motor Vehicle Safety Standards (CMVSS), which are very similar to the current U.S. Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards (FMVSS) requirements);
  3. labels designed according to a combination of the NHTSA current regulations and their proposed changes ('NHTSA'), and
  4. labels based on a behavioural task analysis that were designed according to human factors principles and guidelines ('Optimal').

Results demonstrated that, overall, the Optimal labels resulted in higher usability ratings and better task performance.  This indicates that labels designed using human factors principles and hierarchical task analyses that identify critical task information requirements for label features will result in increased user compliance with instructions, higher usability, and improved task performance.  Results from the study also demonstrate that label design can decrease task performance, and that the actual design of a CRS may be more critical than label content in the choices it affords the user. 

Results of the study suggest that implementation of the recommended changes to the U.S. FMVSS concerning CRS labeling would likely not result in increased performance or usability compared to existing consumer labels that follow the current FMVSS guidelines.  In order to achieve significantly better ease-of-use and proper CRS installation, it would be necessary to implement features of the Optimal label condition.

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