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Tips about Child Restraint Seats
Defining the New LATCH
System – Part I
very year, more than 500 children under 5 died in traffic accidents across
the United States. Nearly half were not in car seats or wearing seat
belts. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reports
that along with those deaths, the lives of an estimated 316 children
under 5 were saved because they were properly restrained when a
In one of his last duties as National Highway Traffic
Safety Administration (NHTSA) Administrator, Ricardo Martinez sent a letter to the
major child restraint manufacturers insisting they improve the
safety of their products--no excuses. Martinez stated that, based on
compliance test results, in most instances child seats are
engineered to "barely comply" with important safety
requirements instead of being designed with a larger margin of
safety. For example, with respect to the head excursion requirements
of FMVSS 213, very few of the restraints had a compliance margin of
10 percent and even fewer had a 20 percent compliance margin.
The U.S. Department of Transportation's NHTSA now
requires new child safety seats to have a specialized way of
attaching to a vehicle seat. Lower Anchors and Tethers for Children
(LATCH) is a restraint system designed to work independently of the
vehicle seat belt system to simplify child safety seat installation
and reduce misuse. All new passenger vehicles manufactured after
Sept. 1, 2002 must have the LATCH system.
Most forward-facing child safety seats also have a top strap
(top tether) that attaches to a tether anchor in the vehicle.
Together, they make up the LATCH system.
Some parents are confused about the top-tether.
A top-tether is simply a strap that connects the top of the
carseat to an anchor mounted in the vehicle at a location behind the
carseat. It is
designed to prevent the forward movement of the top of a
forward-facing carseat in a frontal crash. This reduces the
head excursion of the child, and can reduce the chances of injury.
According to the NHTSA, although the LATCH system will help resolve
installation misuse, parents and drivers should also follow the
safety guidelines below:
sure that the child is the appropriate height, weight and/or age for
the child safety seat.
children in the backseat.
place a rear-facing child restraint in the front seat with an air
the child safety seat properly in the vehicle.
Check that the child safety seat harness straps are tight.
over 40 pounds should use a booster seat
informed regarding recalls.
Finally, LATCH and Tethers
are important safety advances for child safety. If you have
young children and are considering a new carseat or vehicle, please
investigate these options carefully.
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