Child safety seat rules change in 2014

This year, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has revised its regulations for how to use LATCH systems on child safety seats. Susan Helms, director of Injury Prevention and Safe Kids Mid-South, shares the highlights of this new regulation and how to see if it applies to your family.

What is LATCH?

First of all, LATCH stands for Lower Anchors and Tethers for Children. Passenger vehicles made after September 2002 are required to have:

  • two lower anchors (the metal bar in the crevice, or bight, of the vehicle seat)
  • a top tether (the hook above or behind the seating position to which the tether strap attaches)

How does it work?

LATCH carries a weight limit. These limits are not standard across the board, and were generally based on the child’s weight; requiring parents to discontinue use of lower anchors when their child reached 40 or 48 pounds.A decade ago, most child safety seats had a 40 pound weight limit on the harness and the seat itself only weighed around 10 pounds. In contrast, today’s seats weigh as much as 25 pounds or more and harness to 65 pounds or beyond.

What are the new regulations?
All child safety seats manufactured after February 27, 2014 will have a label that clearly defines the maximum weight limit for installing that child safety seat with lower anchors. That maximum weight limit will be 65 pounds when the weight of the child safety seat and the weight of the child are combined.

Also, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NSHTA) will be changing the weight of dummies used for testing the safety of child seats.

Now, a 77 pound, “10 year old” dummy will be used to crash test child safety seats with 65- 80 pound weight limits. A 62 pound “6 year old dummy” to crash test child safety seats with 50- 65 pound weight limits.If the weight of the dummy plus the weight of the child safety seat exceed 65 pounds, the child safety seat will NOT be tested using the lower anchors.

What does this mean for you?

You need to review your vehicle and child safety seat manuals to determine the guidelines for each. You should also weigh your child.

If the combined weight of the child and the safety seat are:

  • Less than 65 pounds – You can continue using the seat with the LATCH system.
  • More than 65 pounds – You can still use the car seat, but you will need to remove the lower LATCH anchors and use the car’s safety belt system.

What about the top tether?

The NSHTA’s regulations say you can continue using the top tether, but it’s really important that you review your child safety seat and vehicle manual to see what they recommend doing. Some consumer groups are pushing for further testing by the NSHTA to determine the appropriate use of the top tether.

What about booster seats?

Some booster seats come with LATCH now. However, the seat belt restrains the child, so weight limits we mentioned earlier do not apply to the LATCH in booster seats.

For additional information, visit Safe Rides News.

Susan Helms is the director of Injury Prevention and Safe Kids Mid-South. Founded in 1992, the program is part of a world-wide child safety campaign and has contributed to a decrease in severe child injury rates by 33 percent in our region. Trained as a pediatric nurse, Susan has worked at Le Bonheur since 1980, including 10 years in our Intensive Care Unit (ICU). She’s the proud grandmother of two.
car seat, safety