If your car seats are installed with L.A.T.C.H., or lower anchors and tether for children, take note. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has updated its regulations about how to use the system. "New rules for car seats using L.A.T.C.H. require an understanding of your car seat’s weight and child’s weight," says Julie Vallese, a consumer safety expert with Dorel Juvenile Group.
There are two main changes. First, car seats can only be installed with L.A.T.C.H. when the combined car seat weight and child's weight equals 65 lbs. or less. Second, car seats manufactured after February 27, 2014 will be required to have a new label that more clearly explain the maximum weight limits for installing a car seat with LATCH. While all manufacturers list height and weight limits for their car seats, this has not taken into account the weight of the car seat itself which can often weigh 20-30 lbs. And while there has a been a slight decrease in childhood obesity rates in recent years, the Center for Disease still reports that overall childhood obesity has doubled in the last 30 years. Heavier car seats and heavier kids means that L.A.T.C.H. tethers are being relied on to hold more weight than they are intended to. So what should parents do? First, says Julie, check your car seat's label, manual or the manufacturer's website for the weight of the seat. Second, weigh your child. "If the combined weight of the seat and your child exceeds 65 lbs., install the car seat using the vehicle’s seat belt," explain Julie. Not sure how? Read the manual carefully or take the car seat to a certified car seat technician for installation. The NHTSA reports that 3 out of 4 car seats are not installed correctly, so if you're not confident that you understand the installation process, get help from a technician. "It is important to know that installations with the belt or installations with L.A.T.C.H. are equally acceptable," reminds Julie. "However, car seats should not be installed using both methods at the same time. No matter what method is chosen, be sure to finish off the installation by using the top tether." You can find out more about the recent L.A.T.C.H. changes here.
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