Monday, February 24th, 2014
By Stephanie Wood
If you thought your child’s car safety seat was complicated to install before, hold on to your tethers. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has issued a new rule that takes effect tomorrow requiring labels warning parents not to use the LATCH anchoring system (LATCH stands for Lower Anchors and Tethers for Children) once the child and the seat combined reach a weight of 65 pounds. Why? With both kids and car seats getting heavier, there is concern that the excess weight can cause the lower anchors to pull out of the floor during a crash, especially since close to a third of all parents neglect to use the top tether straps along with the LATCH system. This new 65-pound limit applies to the lower anchors only, however. You should continue to use the top tethers at all times, regardless of your child’s size.
Could this be the beginning of the end for LATCH, designed a decade ago in an attempt to simplify safety seat installation? After all, you don’t need to use it. Seat belt installation (again, when used in conjunction with the top tethers) is equally safe and increasingly easier as the feds pile on the rules. With the new weight warnings, parents may just give up on LATCH altogether, especially when they are being advised to keep children in child safety seats longer than ever. In fact, with today’s car safety seats typically weighing an easy 25 pounds themselves, LATCH will cease to be usable once most kids graduate to front-facing seats. So why bother doing the added math when you are already counting your child’s hours of screen time, sleep, nutritional intake, physical activity, college fund contributions, and more?
The sad fact remains that with or without LATCH, car seats are misused 90 percent of the time, and the new weight limits are certainly not going to improve those numbers. The safest bet for all parents is to visit a car seat inspection station and have your installation checked by someone trained. To find one in your area, go to seatcheck.org or call 1-866-SEAT-CHECK.
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Wednesday, February 5th, 2014
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) recently announced two changes designed to boost car seat safety. One has an immediate impact on how parents should be installing their child-safety seat. One won’t affect you or your kid for a few years (by which time he may be in a booster). Both are welcome developments in reducing the risk factor for serious injuries.
First, effective immediately all new car seats must state on the label that the Lower Anchors and Tethers for Children (LATCH) system should only be used when the total weight of the child and seat is 65 pounds or less. Above that weight, the anchors may not effectively restrain a car seat in case of a sudden stop or an accident. The solution is easy: When the total weight exceeds that figure, use the car’s seat belt as an anchor. The same guideline holds for whatever seat you’re currently using. Since many safety seats are bigger and heavier these days, it’s important to weigh yours (and your child) and crunch the numbers.
Federal regulators also plan to implement a new rule requiring child seats to withstand side-impact collisions of up to 30 mph. The new crash test will begin as early as this spring, complementing the front-impact tests that are already conducted on all car seats. Manufacturers will have three years to comply with the new standard, though hopefully many will do so sooner. NHTSA estimates that the cost of extra padding and/or wider wings will be a mere 50 cents per seat and will prevent 5 deaths and 64 injuries annually—a more than worthwhile tradeoff.
For now, your smartest move is to make sure your current seat is installed properly. That’s not as simple than it sounds: Three out of four car seats are installed improperly. See if your local police or fire station has a certified inspector on site who can walk you through the process. Or check out these videos on installing a car seat and avoiding a potentially tragic mistake.
Ready to replace your old seat? Shop for a new one here.
Baby in a safety car seat via Shutterstock
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