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Name:
Location: Allentown, PA

I'm a Christian wife and a mom to three daughters and two sons. I'm a member of the board of directors of EmPoWeReD Birth. In my "spare time" I'm a doula, and a certified childbirth instructor.

Monday, March 21, 2005

Using LATCH to keep your kids safe?

Then you will want to read this. LATCH stands for "Lower Anchors and Tethers for Children." It is a system of anchors installed in the vehicle seat bite (where the seat back and bottom meet) to which hooks from the bottom of a child safety seat are attached; and tether anchors installed in the vehicle behind the seating location (can be in the floor, bottom of the seat frame, shelf by the rear window, or ceiling) to which a "tether" from the top of a forward facing seat is attached. This system is supposed to make installing child safety seats simpler, since the endless variations of vehicle seat belts can often be incompatible with particular styles of child safety seats.

It seems that the use of LATCH is causing an unexpected problem...inquisitive kids are playing with the unused seatbelt that is hanging next to them, and getting caught in it. One child has been strangled to death, another came pretty close.

If you are using LATCH there is a simple action you can take to prevent this kind of incident. Remove your child's safety seat from the car. Buckle the seatbelt. If it has a "switchable retractor" turn the retractor "on" by pulling out the entire length of the belt, then let it retract. Then reinstall the child safety seat using the LATCH system. While you are in there fixing things, take a few seconds to buckle any unused lap-only belts so they aren't left flying around in a crash. Also look to remove any unnecessary loose items in your vehicle so that they don't become projectiles in a crash.

5 Comments:

Anonymous cjmr said...

Semi-off topic, but I have a question about LATCH. We have one car with LATCH and one without. I was very excited about getting the car with LATCH because I thought that that would make the car seats even more secure than we'd previously been able to make them using the "kneeling in the seat, pulling the belt tight then using the belt clip" method. The seat installed in my station wagon does not move at all. But it doesn't seem like we can get the seat put in anywhere near that tight using the LATCHes, so we've gone to using the belts in that car, too. Is there a different tightness standard for the LATCH system?

4:59 AM, April 04, 2005  
Blogger Jenn said...

There isn't a different tightness standard for LATCH. LATCH is *supposed* to make installing carseats easier. In some cases it does, in some cases it doesn't. Ultimately, you should install your children's seats with the method that produces the best installation.

8:29 PM, April 06, 2005  
Blogger TulipGirl said...

What carseat do you recommend for a 4 y/o, around 30 lbs, that is more affordable than sophisticated?

Thanks!

4:27 AM, April 17, 2005  
Blogger TulipGirl said...

Hey, the minivan we bought has integrated child seats. Woohoo! One less thing to have to worry about. . .

(Please tell me those are safe, Jenn. . .)

11:32 AM, April 19, 2005  
Blogger Jenn said...

Well Tulip, in regards to the integrated seats..."it depends."

Make sure you check with the manufacturer for recalls if the vehicle is used. And if the vehicle is used, make sure you get a "Car Fax" report to find out about crashes. If the seats were in use during a crash (which you will have to assume if there was a crash), you need to have the harnesses replaced. I did a carseat check recently on integrated seats, and I was not at all happy with the harness. It was a T-shield...which I don't care for, and the retractor mechanism wasn't working correctly. That was slightly fixed by me untwisting the harness, but not completely. The seat back also seemed like it could get uncomfortable fast--not well padded.

If you decide not to use the integrated harness, for a less expensive option I would reccommend a belt positioning booster--assuming that "around 30 lbs" is actually "over 30 lbs." Technically a harness is the best choice to 40 lbs...but how long are you going to be state-side? Perhaps not long enough to invest in a convertible. Of course you need shoulder belts to use a booster. A low-back is fine if the vehicle seat back comes up over the top of your son's ears. If his ears are above the back of the seat while seated on a booster, he needs a high backed booster.

Also, please keep in mind that belt positioning boosters will probably be needed by your older boys--how tall/heavy is your oldest? In many states--including PA--boosters are required up to the 8th birthday, but that is just the legal law. The law of physics says that vehicle seats/seatbelts are designed for 165 lb adults, so do not fit children well. Your child needs to be able to sit on the seat with knees bending at the seat front and shoulder belt sitting on his shoulder to be large enough not to need a booster. When this will happen varies from vehicle to vehicle (and child to child--some kids are all legs, while others have more torso...), but a general rule is 4'9" tall and 80 lbs.

8:32 PM, April 25, 2005  

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