Think anchoring your kids’ carseats with the special LATCH tether system is all there is to installing a carseat properly? Well, it’s possible that’s true. But a new AAA survey of pros in the carseat installation field has concluded that most of us are doing it wrong.
In fact, 10 years after LATCH was introduced, the system designed to make proper installation easier, three out of four parents are still screwing stuff up.
LATCH was introduced in 2002 and was designed to be an alternative to securing carseats with seatbelts, which nearly every parent at the time was not tightening up enough to keep babies and toddlers safe.
Using LATCH in the rear-center seating position when not permitted by the vehicle manufacturer.
Safety experts have long promoted the rear-center seat as the safest seating position for children. However, in an IIHS study of 2010-11 model year vehicles, only 7 of the 98 top-selling vehicles supported LATCH use in the rear-center seat. Many parents make the mistake of using the inner anchor for each outboard seat to install a car seat in the center seat using LATCH. If the vehicle does not support a LATCH installation in the rear-center seat, use a seat belt to secure the car seat, or move the car seat to an outboard seat. Be sure to always consult the vehicle owner’s manual before installing a car seat in any vehicle.
Using both the seatbelt AND the LATCH system to install the car seat.
While parents may think using both the seat belt and the LATCH system will provide additional protection, the opposite may be true. In the event of a crash, belts are designed to expand and absorb crash forces. If both systems are used, the crash forces may be distributed improperly, resulting in injury or death. Unless both the vehicle owner’s manual and the car seat manufacturer’s manual approve using both methods together, select either the seatbelt or the LATCH system.
Using the wrong belt path with the LATCH attachments to install the car seat.
Convertible car seats have belt paths for both rear-facing and forward-facing installations. When installing the car seat, consult the car seat manufacturer’s instructions to determine which belt path to use. Selecting the incorrect belt path will leave the seat improperly secured.
The survey found parents were also rigging up DIY methods of securing and propping carseats with stretch cords, plywood and other unreliable materials that, in a wreck, could become dangerous projectiles. It’s safest to keep it simple and let the pros show you how (or do it for you).
For optimal installation, parents can find carseat checks and free installation events through AAA. Go to a local AAA club, www.seatcheck.org or call 866-SEATCHECK (866-732-8243). For more child passenger safety resources for parents and caregivers, visit SafeSeats4Kids.AAA.com.