The Car Seat Lady goes point by point on the “2014 Car Seat Law Changes” article on Babble.com
As a pediatrician and nationally certified child passenger safety instructor – I’m best known as The Car Seat Lady – I am VERY concerned by this recent blog post on the 2014 car seat law changes which appeared on Babble.com and has gotten a tremendous number of views, but sadly contains a lot of misinformation that could endanger a child.
I have written my own post and created my own infographic to help clarify this rather technical and complex issue. I wish I could have written as concise an article & infographic as was found in the Babble piece, but the topic is too complex and the nuances too important to over simplify and over generalize as was done.
Here are some of the points in the article that need to be addressed. I have put in bold the direct text from the Babble article, and my responses are below each:
Starting in 2014, the new recommendation states that the LATCH system should no longer be used when the child and car seat combined weight is over 65lbs.
- In this first sentence alone there are numerous problems. First, IF this LAW gets passed (it isn’t a sure thing yet), it won’t be a recommendation… it will be a law… written into the Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard 213.
- Second, it will be addressing the use of the Lower Anchors ONLY… it will not be putting a weight limit on the Tether anchors. Tethers are the “T” in LATCH – so saying that the LATCH system should not be used is completely wrong (and dangerous) since the tethers should continue to be used even above the 65 pounds.
- Third, many of the vehicle manufacturers have already adopted the 65 pound combined weight limit – so even if the law doesn’t go into effect, it has already gone into effect more than a year ago for the majority of vehicles.
This is an amendment to the law instated in 2001 that recommends that all children up to 65lbs remain in car seats/boosters
- The law does not discuss how long children should remain in car seats or boosters
Car manufacturers cannot guarantee the strength of the anchors when adding the additional weight of the seat, thus the need to modify the law.
- It is not just the additional weight of the seat – it is also the additional weight of the child. In 2001 there were almost no seats that could harness a child above 40 pounds – 13 years later we have seats that can harness a child up to 90 pounds. This extra child’s weight is a big part of the issue being addressed.
The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that children remain in harness (including 5 point harness or booster with seatbelt) until the age of 8.
- First, a harness is a harness, and a seat belt is a seat belt. A booster with a seat belt is not a harness.
- What the AAP really says is this:
- “All children whose weight or height is above the forward-facing limit for their CSS should use a belt-positioning booster seat until the vehicle lap-and-shoulder seat belt ﬁts properly, typically when they have reached 4 feet 9 inches in height and are between 8 and 12 y of age.”
- Note the HUGE difference between the tone of this article implying that the AAP says that kids only need a booster until 8 vs what the AAP actually says which is that most kids need a booster until they are 8-12 years old.
INFOGRAPHIC: Under 65 pounds use LATCH system, over 65 pounds use Seat Belt Restraint
- First, saying that under 65 pounds you need to use the LATCH system endangers large numbers of children as the center of nearly every vehicle on the road does NOT have the lower anchors. A large study showed that the center is 43% safer than the side – so it is strongly recommended that children, when possible, ride in the center. However, to install a car seat in the center of most vehicles you must use the seat belt (since the lower anchors are typically just for the side seating positions).
- You can ALWAYS use the seat belt to secure a child’s car seat – under or over 65 pounds. In fact, some seats in this under 65 pound category – like infant seats without the base & car beds for preemies – do NOT have the LATCH system… meaning that you must use the seat belt to secure these seats.
- Second, for the over 65 pounds you neglect to mention the use of the tether (the “T” in the LATCH system) – a really serious omission. The tether is the MOST IMPORTANT PART OF EVERY FORWARD FACING CAR SEAT as it decreases how far the forward-facing child’s head moves forward by 6-8 inches – which significantly reduces the risks of brain and spinal cord injuries. The tether is important for every forward facing child – but it is MOST important for the larger, heavier child (the one in that over 65 pound category) as this child by virtue of their increased height and weight will pull their head farther forward in a crash and you need to do everything possible to limit this motion, otherwise the child’s head will hit the seat in front, the window, the door frame, or other hard structures that can cause very serious injuries.
- Quite a few of the car seats with harnesses that accommodate kids to higher weights REQUIRE the use of the tether for these heavier kids. Case in point, the Britax Frontier 90 requires the tether when a child weighs 65 pounds or more.
- Also, what is a “seat belt restraint” – a seat belt, by definition, is a restraint. I’m not sure if something else was trying to be implied??