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Important 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 crash happened.

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:


        Make sure that the child is the appropriate height, weight and/or age for the child safety seat.

        Place children in the backseat.

        Never place a rear-facing child restraint in the front seat with an air bag.

        Install the child safety seat properly in the vehicle.  Check that the child safety seat harness straps are tight.

         Children over 40 pounds should use a booster seat

        Stay 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. 



Also see:

Safety Issues for Cars & Drivers  

Most Common Car Accidents and How to Avoid Them -What causes accidents?  Drinking?  Jabbering on that cell phone?

  How to Find a Good Attorney if You're Involved in an Accident - Don't miss out on these important tips.

How to Get Your Car Ready to Cruise into Summer -The winter has been tough on your car, but there is no better time to get it ready for summer!

Buckling Up for Two -Your baby's first ride is in your womb.  Tips to make sure she stays safe.


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