It’s Child Passenger Safety Week, which means, SURPRISE! We’re talking about car seats. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has made lots of awesome graphics that show one scary fact: Most people think their car seats are used correctly… but they’re wrong. And in this case, wrong can mean deadly wrong.
The Lower Anchors and Tethers for CHildren (LATCH) system that has become standard on car seats is supposed to be an easier method for installation than the belts (though neither are safer than the other), but a new study by AAA has found that unfortunately even with the simplified system, 3 out of 4 people are still using the LATCH wrong. In fact, in a IIHS survey, only 13% of volunteer parents were able to correctly install the seat using LATCH! Yikes!
So, here are the top 3 mistakes people make with the LATCH:
Using LATCH where you’re not supposed to.
A problem a lot of us have with many cars is that despite the middle being safest, very few vehicles actually allow the LATCH to be used in the middle position. In fact, AAA reports that of 2010-2011 model cars, only 7 of the top selling 98 vehicles allowed it! So as always, make sure you read your manual. Not just the car seat’s, but your car’s too! If your car doesn’t allow it, use the belt for a center install if you can, or have a Safe Kids Certified Technician show you how.
Using the LATCH and the seatbelt.
It’s one or the other people. Never use both. It doesn’t make it safer — in fact, using both the seatbelt and the LATCH can distribute crash forces unevenly on the seat and risk more injury to your kiddo.
Using the wrong belt path.
Make sure you look carefully at your seat, and the manual, to make sure you’re using the REAR-facing belt path when the seat is rear-facing, and the FORWARD-facing belt path when it’s forward facing. They make a big difference in the safety of your installation. Make sure when you switch from rear-facing to forward-facing that you make any necessary changes to not only your installation, but the seat itself, such as flipping a recline block or only using certain harness slots.
Another scary thing they found? Parents, well-intentioned parents, are using things such as zip-ties, bungee cords, plywood and even shoelaces to secure car seats. Look… just because it’s tied down doesn’t make it safe. Not only is your rigged system likely to break, but if it comes loose, it poses a hazard not only to your baby, but to every single person in the car. Use the LATCH or car’s seat belt ONLY. Never come up with your own system. There are many private and government programs in place to help you get a safe car seat if you need one. Don’t hesitate to ask for help when it comes to protecting your child’s life.
But again, it really comes down to this… READ your car seat manual. Not just the page that shows the installation you’re doing, but the whole thing. There are tips and rules throughout it, and you don’t want to miss important steps, because that’s how kids end up getting hurt. Also, even if you think your installation is perfect, take your seat to a Safe Kids Certified Technician and have them check it out. It’s a quick check, it’s free, and it could mean the difference between life and death for your child!