Every parent knows putting your child in a properly installed safety seat is critical, but it can also be confusing. And, it's about to get even more so.
New guidelines go into effect early next year affecting the way parents use a vehicle's “Lower Anchors and Tethers for CHildren,” known as the LATCH system. Those are the anchors in the back seat of vehicles made after 2002. It's meant to make it easier to install car seats.
State Child Passenger Safety Coordinator Brandi Thompson says, "Within LATCH, there is a lot of confusion coming forward now with the weight limits involved on those lower anchors and maximum load limits different per vehicle, it's time to set something forth to kind of help parents better understand."
The new guidelines will warn parents to not use the LATCH system if the combined weight of their child and the child's car seat exceeds the recommended limit, which is typically 65 pounds.
Thompson says, "With a child exceeding the weight limit with their body weight, plus the car seat they're using and they're involved in a crash exceeding the weight limit, then there is potential issue of the seat not holding during the crash."
Early next year, manufacturers will put the weight of the car seat on the label. Until then, you’ll have to weigh the seat yourself. Thompson put one on the scale that weighed 22.1 pounds. So, you'd have to do the math and check your vehicle's owner’s manual and car seat manual to know if the LATCH system will keep your child safely secured.
Thompson says, "It's a great system to utilize for a rear facing installation." Thompson recommends using the LATCH system for rear facing seats and keeping kids rear facing as long as possible. She says, "And often times that can be up to 40 pounds.”
Then, when you switch your child to a forward facing car seat, use the seat belt to install it. She says, "We don't have weight limits on seat belts and so that's what helps kind of reduce all of the confusion and pressure on a parent to have to remember all of those weights on their car seat and did they change cars in the middle of all those things."
Thompson stresses proper installation is key, no matter the system you use. You can make sure your car is properly installed at a fit station on Thursday. You can stop by Bob Brown Chevrolet in Urbandale anytime from 5 to 7 p.m. The fit station is held the first Thursday of every month.