On February 27, 2014 (in two days!) the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration is implementing what is being referred to as the “65 Lb Latch Rule”. When this was announced a little while back, many of our readers started to panic just a little and had questions about what this new rule meant to them. Car seat safety is a very touchy subject because our tiny, precious baby’s safety depends on it.
So we turned to Sarah Tilton, BRITAX child passenger safety advocate, on the upcoming guidelines for car seat installation using LATCH.
First, BRITAX and Baby Gizmo 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.
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.