Car seat guidelines for LATCH have changed!!!
Did you know there are weight limits for the use of LATCH?
Have you heard that starting Tuesday February 25, 2014 federal regulators will issue a rule that requires child car seat manufacturers to place labels on the seats warning parents to not use the seats and the in car anchors called LATCH once their child and their car seat weighs 65 pounds combined? There have been rumblings about this for over a year. In 2002 the National Highway Traffic Safety administration (NHTSA) required most passenger vehicles to have special anchors for attaching a car seat directly to the vehicle rather than using a seat belt. This system is call the Lower Anchors and Tethers for Children (LATCH). This requirement made it much easier to install car seats securely. However parents did not realize that their vehicle had weight limits for the LATCH system. In fact a study in Safe Kids Worldwide showed 46% of forward facing car seats with harnesses are secured incorrectly with the LATCH system. This study is a great read to help explain what is best practice for your child’s age, weight, and the car seat you have. Now, to help parents understand the guidelines, the NHTSA will require all car seats to have a warning label to indicate the maximum child weight for the use of the LATCH system, so the combined weight of the car seat and child is not over the 65 lbs. limit.
So, starting now….do not use the LATCH system if your child and your child’s car seat weigh 65 pounds or more total. The LATCH system receives the most stress in an accident. Seat belts are made to restrain heavier adults, so they are a good alternative to LATCH when the combined weight is over that 65 lbs. limit. The tether use is often required by your car seat manufacturer. So it is safer to continue to use it for children who are over the weight limit. The risk of NOT using the tether OUTWEIGHS the risk of the tether not holding in an accident. Most experts recommend using the tether no matter how much a child weighs. After testing car seats, the editor of ConsumerReports.org states “The likelihood of a top tether-anchor failing when anchoring a higher-weight child is unlikely and has not been seen in real-world crashes. And if an anchor were to fail, it would still have provided some benefit in reducing forward movement and absorbing energy from the crash as it deformed.” It seems that a tether that fails is better than none at all in protecting a child from head injury.
Clearly car seat installation is confusing to most of us! I know I am confused! If you have questions, call your car seat manufacturer to see what their recommendations are for the seat you currently have. As of now, use the seat belt instead of the lower anchors of the LATCH system to install your forward facing car seat when your child and the seat have a combined weight of 65 pounds or more. Use the tether if recommended by the car seat manufacturer because studies show that it does provide protection against head injury, and finally my recommendation is have a car seat technician install your car seat the first time. This will help ensure that your child’s seat is installed safely and properly…and in our case would save an argument between my husband and me! I have learned that not wallpapering together and not installing car seats together just might be the reason we have been married as long as we have!
Take a breath, enjoy the joyful moments of each day, and remember you don’t have to be perfect to be the perfect parent.