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Home / News and Events / Health Tips / To LATCH or not to LATCH? New car seat safety guidelines
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To LATCH or not to LATCH? New car seat safety guidelines
 

Reviewed By: Chazlie Miller, child passenger safety technician at Monroe Carell Jr. Children’s Hospital at Vanderbilt. (Last Updated: April 10, 2014)
  

With the ever-expanding landscape of car seats available on the market and new technologies, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration recently revised some of its guidelines to help parents keep infants and children safe.

The latest recommendation addresses the use of the Lower Anchors and Tethers for Children, or LATCH restraint system, with car seats, says Chazlie Miller, child passenger safety technician at Monroe Carell Jr. Children’s Hospital at Vanderbilt.

The LATCH system includes anchors in the nook of your vehicle’s rear seats and top anchors (for the tether) behind each seat position. In this instance, parents hook the car seat to the anchors and tether instead of using the safety-belt restraint.

“The new federal guidelines state that car seat manufacturers are now required to attach warning labels to car seats specifying that the COMBINED weight of the child and the car seat must not exceed 65 pounds when utilizing the LATCH,” she said.

Weight limit guidelines were issued to ensure that the LATCH system is not overloaded with too much weight. For parents to determine how much the combined weight is, they will need to know the weight of their child and the weight of the car seat. To find the information on the weight of the car seat, a parent can refer to the instruction manual or contact the car seat’s manufacturer. If the combined weight exceeds 65 pounds, parents should use the safety-belt restraint instead.

The newest regulation primarily affects forward-facing car seats that have higher weight limits, but parents should always double-check.

When in doubt, parents can get help to make sure their child’s safety seat is appropriately installed. In fact, NHTSA notes that three out of four children are not properly secured in their car seats. Motor vehicle crashes are the leading cause of death for children ages 1 to 14, and about 50 percent of the deaths of children under age 5 involve children that were unrestrained.

“We urge parents to have their child’s car seat checked to ensure the installation and fit are correct,” Miller said. “Parents can visit an approved inspection station in order to have a certified child passenger safety technician assist with their child’s car seat installation.

“Car seats save lives! It is important to not only use a car seat, but to also ensure that it is being used correctly,” she said.

Tips to know when installing a child passenger safety seat

  • A car seat should not move more than 1 inch side-to-side or front-to-back when you pull at the belt path area.
  • Make sure the seat is right for your child’s age, weight, and height. Always check the manufacturers’ labels before purchasing a seat.
  • The harness strap should be snug on your child with no slack. Using your thumb and index finger, try to pinch one of the harness straps at your child's collarbone level. If you are able to pinch the strap, the harness is not tight enough.
  • The harness clips should be level with the child’s armpit.
  • In a rear-facing seat, the shoulder straps should be at or below the child’s shoulders. 
  • In a forward-facing car seat, the harness straps should be at or above the child's shoulders. 

To find a local car seat safety inspection site visit the NHTSA website.



Related information in our health library: Car Safety

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