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Wednesday
Jan012014

New year, new car seat rules 

Happy New Year!  Today, as we all consider our new years resolutions, add this one to your list:  figure out the weight of your child plus the weight of their car seat. 

The reason?  Effective next month (February 2014), the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSSA) requires that the LATCH system should be used to secure your child's car seat ONLY if the combined weight of the child + the car seat is less than 65 pounds.  

LATCH anchors, found in cars built after 2002, are an attacment system for car seats (LATCH stands for Lower Anchors and Tethers for Chidlren). LATCH was designed with the goal of making it easier to install child car seats.  And for anyone who hasn't had the pleasure of wrestling a car seat into proper position, I will attest that it can be really, really hard to get those darn things installed without those blessed LATCH anchors.

Unfortunatley, car manufacturers cannot guarantee the strength of the anchors when adding the additional weight of the seat, thus the need to modify the law. 

Child car seats vary widely in weight, according to a survey done by Safe Ride. Seats range from 15 to 33 pounds. That could mean that under the new guidelines, the switch from LATCH to seatbelts to secure a car seat could take place when some children weigh as little as 32 pounds.

So what to do if your child and car seat weigh more than 65 pounds?  Simple, just switch from using the LATCH anchors to using the seatbelt to secure the seat.

Other Car Seat Quick Tips:

Birth - 24 months
Your child under age 2 years should always ride in a rear-facing car seat.  For more info about this - see my earlier blog post.
2-4 years
Keep your child rear-facing as long as possible, but at least until 2 years (although many European countries keep toddlers rear facing until 3 or 4 years)!  Your child should remain in a rear-facing car seat until he or she reaches the top height or weight limit allowed by your car seat’s manufacturer.  BUT SWITCH FROM USING THE LATCH SYSTEM TO THE SEAT BELT TO SECURE THE SEAT ONCE THE SEAT + CHILD WEIGHS MORE THAN 65 POUNDS
4 - 7 years
Keep your child in a forward-facing car seat with a harness (five point harness preferred) until he or she reaches the top height or weight limit allowed by your car seat’s manufacturer.
8 - 12 years
Keep your child in a booster seat until he or she is big enough to fit in a seat belt properly, usually when they are at least 4 feet 9 inches tall and are 8-12 years old. For a seat belt to fit properly the lap belt must lie snugly across the upper thighs, not the stomach. The shoulder belt should lie snug across the shoulder and chest and not cross the neck or face.

Remember: your child should still ride in the back seat until their 13th birthday, due to risk of injury in the passengar seat from airbags.

Much more information on child car seats is at the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP).

The AAP also has created a Car Seat Check app for iPhones and iPads ($1.99).

Parents can visit NHTSA for how-to videos about LATCH use.

Other information is at NHTSA's Car Seat and Booster Basics page.

Parents who want some professional help can find a certified child car seat inspection station at the NHTSA Child Safety Web site.

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