Confused by the new LATCH guidelines? You’re not alone! Leading up to the effective date of the new guidelines (February 27, 2014) some online and broadcast media stations have managed to confuse parents even more. And when it comes to car seats and the safety of your child, this is not a subject that should fall in the gray area.
Being a Child Passenger Safety Technician myself, I have found that the explanation by Sarah Tilton, BRITAX child passenger safety advocate, is very relatable for parents.
BRITAX believes that a safe car seat is one that:
- Fits your child (based on weight, standing height and seated shoulder height)
- Fits your vehicle
- Installs and can be used easily every time
To help ensure that caregivers install car seats securely, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) requires most passenger vehicles manufactured after September 1, 2002, to have special anchors for attaching the child seat using Lower Anchors and Tethers for Children (LATCH) directly to the vehicle rather than securing the child seat with the vehicle’s seat belt.
However, when parents secure their car seats using LATCH, they often don’t realize that the vehicle lower anchors have weight limits. In fact, according to a recent Safe Kids Worldwide study, 46 percent of forward-facing car seats with harnesses are incorrectly secured by way of lower anchor installation.
Most lower anchors are not designed to secure more than a combined weight of 65 pounds for both child and car seat. If the combined weight of a child and his or her car seat is more than 65 pounds, the car seat should be secured using the vehicle’s seat belt.
To help clarify these guidelines, NHTSA will require all car seats to include a statement on the warning label to indicate maximum child weight for the use of vehicle lower anchors during installation. The new labeling will provide a simple reference for caregivers who use a car seat in a vehicle that does not permit the use of lower anchors when the combined weight of the child and the car seat exceeds 65 pounds. NHTSA is expected to require these new labels starting February 27, 2014.
To further clarify any confusion you might have, Britax will be holding an open webinar on Thursday, February 6th from 1:00pm – 2:00pm EST. I highly recommend you reserve your spot now as space is limited. Signing up and reserving your spot for the webinar takes one minute and you can reserve your spot HERE.
BRITAX recommends that parents use the following best practices when installing a car seat using the LATCH system:
- Do not use lower anchors if the combined weight of child and car seat exceed 65 pounds.
- Use the vehicle seat belt, not lower anchors (in most vehicles), when the combined weight of the child and car seat exceed 65 pounds.
- If you cannot locate a weight limit for using LATCH in the car seat user guide or vehicle owner’s manual, you should install your seat with the vehicle seat belt and top tether.
- Install the car seat with the top tether at all times, regardless of installation method (lower anchors or seat belt for forward-facing harnessed seats). Check the vehicle owner’s manual and/or car seat user guide to determine if there are weight limits for top tether usage.
- Review the car seat user guide and vehicle owner’s manual, contact the car seat or vehicle manufacturer as necessary, or consult with a local Child Passenger Safety Technician (CPST) using a LATCH Manual, to determine the best method for installing the car seat. You can search for your local CPST on www.safekids.org.
ALTERNATIVE TO LATCH IN SELECT HARNESS-2-BOOSTER SEATS
One alternative to ensuring a safe and secure installation each and every time, without worrying about child and car seat weight or relying on LATCH, is the BRITAX ClickTight Installation System, found in the BRITAX FRONTIER™90 and PINNACLE™90 harness-2-booster seats. The system allows parents to install the forward-facing seat in harness mode, starting from at least 2 years of age and 25 pounds and up to 90 pounds. The technology behind the ClickTight Installation System allows parents to securely install their child’s car seat with just one ‘click.’”
We own and use both the Britax Pinnacle 90 and the Britax Frontier 90 for my four-year old and six-year-old. I had a difficult time installing our previous seat in the third row of my Toyota Sienna. Once I got the Frontier 90, installation was easy and perfect/safe for my child. The Britax ClickTight seats are at the top of my list as a recommendation for children over 25 pounds and 2 years old.