Almost every article about newborn car seats has the same statistic: nearly four out of five are improperly placed. It’s a fact. Approximately 80 percent of newborn car seats are improperly placed. This means that roughly one out of every five children is safe in their car seat. The suction cups on those annoying “Baby on Board” signs are installed with greater precision than the gadgets entrusted with ensuring the safety of our nation’s children in car accidents. According to scientific evidence, this is the case.
And since so many individuals do not use car seats at all, and because the majority of those who do use them incorrectly, automobile accidents are the top cause of mortality among Americans aged 2 to 14. Given such statistics, it was evident
Researchers discovered that the issue was a lack of uniformity throughout the business. Car seats were a confusing mass of plastic, metal, and fabric that sat awkwardly and unsteadily on the backseat of a vehicle, and it was up to the most responsible adult available to determine how to thread the car’s seatbelts through the seat base’s loops and come up with what appeared to be a snug enough fit. One can assume that this was done hastily, under duress, while holding handfuls of hair while balancing an infant on the hip. As individuals do not wreck every time they leave the driveway, it was generally okay. When an accident did occur, however, this arrangement was insufficient and the child would be injured.
Hence, the LATCH system was implemented. Believe it or not, the acronym is not the most embarrassing aspect of the program. Rather, this would be the outcome of a National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) attempt to require automakers and infant safety seat manufacturers to comply with a set of standards that would streamline the entire process of securing a child safely in a vehicle. LATCH was pushed out progressively, with complete implementation scheduled for September 2002. Years later, there are still many unanswered questions, and some of its supposed benefits continue to be questioned.
5: LATCH is Universal and (Possibly) Easier to Use
The wrong installation of car seats was frequently attributed to the installation procedure, which differed from vehicle to vehicle and seat to seat. One of the benefits of LATCH is that, in principle, the laws would provide a set of universally recognizable components, allowing seats to be quickly transferred across vehicles.
The “lower anchor” component of LATCH was created so that car seats no longer need to be secured with the vehicle’s seat belts — it was complicated to know which belts to use, where they attached, or how they should be passed through the car seat and secured. There is no margin for error.
Each LATCH installation position is equipped with two metal bars that protrude slightly from the seat bottom. The top tethers are equipped with three anchor points (the locations vary depending on the type of vehicle, usually on the rear shelf for small cars and various other locations for vans or SUVs). Again, parents have the option of using the lower belts instead of the lower anchors, which can be confusing.
Always refer to the owner’s manual and instructions for your specific car seat and vehicle. Even though the method is intended to be universal, the many types of automobiles, from convertibles to SUVs, vary so considerably that carmakers, seat designers, and government authorities have had to find a compromise. The system is simplified because all the essential components are identical, but a few minutes of research will ensure that the seat is latched correctly.
An analysis by Consumer Reports revealed that LATCH makes it easier to locate everything that needs to be linked, but making all the necessary connections might still cause headaches. The act of installing a LATCH-equipped seat provides assurance that it was installed correctly and will remain in position, the magazine observed. According to Consumer Reports, the LATCH mechanism in some automobiles is extremely user-friendly. Some are significantly more complex. One SUV, for instance, required the back seats to be folded down in order to access the anchors, which was practically impossible because the car seat was already on the seat, filling the essential area for the seat to fold. Some critics of the method argue that LATCH may be defeating its own aim by bringing discrepancies and decision-making into the process.
4: LATCH Might Make it Easier to Select a Car Seat
Wait…that may be somewhat deceptive.
In principle, LATCH facilitates the selection of a car seat because all new car seats must comply with LATCH rules. Hence, purchasing a car seat should be as straightforward as identifying the seat that best fits your child. The decision should be straightforward if all chairs fulfill the same standards, indicating that the quality and efficacy of brands and designs are comparable, if not identical. Shouldn’t comparison shopping be somewhat simplified?
In reality, manufacturers and marketers are constantly trying to outdo one another while maintaining the illusion of being government-regulated good citizens. Simply put, a car seat is effective if it saves your child in an accident. A car seat is even more effective if it sells more units than its competition. Hence, it can be quite perplexing to hear “LATCH is universal!” and then walk into a store and see boxes claiming “Our LATCH is superior to their LATCH!” But it happens. There are around 40 businesses that manufacture kid restraint systems for automobiles. Hence, since the introduction of LATCH, producers of children’s products have devised “super” LATCH hardware and “easier” LATCH installations, and some have trademarked product names that include the LATCH acronym or a play on it. We cannot say whether these seats are superior than those of our competitors. Just use your own discretion when navigating marketing jargon.
Even if you may rest assured that every seat on the store shelves meets federal safety standards, you still have some options. Make sure the seat fits your child’s height and weight by reading the measurement information provided. Create a list of the models you’re interested in and search online for reviews and recall information. Then, perhaps you can attempt some color and fabric coordination with your car’s interior or your child’s favorite blanket.
3: Every Car has at Least Two LATCH-designated Spots
One of the decisions that LATCH is intended to eliminate is “Where in the vehicle should the seat be installed?” In prior car (and seat) generations, determining the optimal mounting points was frequently a challenge. It is difficult to traverse the labyrinth of seatbelts in the backseat of most automobiles (which belt half couples to where? ), and the mix of shoulder harnesses and slack, manually-tightened lap belts made installation messy and unreliable.
Hence, LATCH was developed and again claimed to make things simpler.
Each vehicle equipped with LATCH must have at least two sets of lower anchors and corresponding tethers. For the sake of symmetry, the anchors are located on opposite sides of the backseat in automobiles with at least two sets of anchors (which is to say, most cars, with the exception of some SUVs and vans). In other words, the anchors necessitate that automobile seats be located adjacent to the windows and doors.
Critics screamed, “Tradition and common sense suggest that the safest place for a child is in the middle of the backseat, away from the doors that could open in a collision and the glass that will likely break!” This contradicts everything we’ve heard for decades!
Well, automakers, seat designers, and government safety experts responded, if you truly want to position the seat in the middle, you may utilize the leftmost anchor on the passenger side and the rightmost anchor on the driver side as a set of center anchors. But, it will not be safe in every circumstance. The required anchors must be significantly farther apart than conventional anchors; in other words, there cannot be large spaces between the seat base and the anchors that would allow the seat to move. (Experts recommend leaving no more than 1 inch (2.54 cm) between the anchor hardware and the seat mounting point.) The fit and installation must be as tight as if the seat were installed in the “official” location, and the tethers must hold the seat securely in place, with no forward movement.
Hence, if your vehicle is fitted with LATCH, there will be two clearly-designated mounting places, and if your old safety requirements supersede the new ones, you have some flexibility, even though the purpose is to avoid flexibility. When the chairs are adjacent to the doors, it is at least simpler to install them. In addition, if there were just one center seat and one side seat, parents would be forced to choose a favorite child each time the family traveled by automobile, putting one child at a lower danger than the other.
2: LATCH is Safer
According to research, the minimal flexibility of the LATCH method leads to misunderstanding. Humans frequently install components improperly. Some erroneously believe that because one component of the system offers a choice (such as whether to use a seatbelt instead of the lower anchors), all components are optional (such as neglecting the upper tether system).
The current increase in childhood obesity has also resulted in complications. Parents may not recognize their child exceeds the weight limit for a certain car seat model if the child’s height and age fall within the acceptable range.
However, once these issues were identified, they were promptly resolved. Numerous manufacturer websites even have instructional films demonstrating proper installation. In addition, the NHTSA encourages automakers to publish compatibility information that assists consumers in selecting car safety seats that fit best in their vehicles. Yet, it is the responsibility of parents to ensure that their children are in good health and that their car safety seats are properly installed.
Despite these limitations, why is LATCH purportedly superior? Sadly, it is sometimes a leap of faith that the automobile safety seat has been properly put. But, once it is, the top tethers improve safety because older seats with only bottom straps were prone to flipping forward in a collision. Even if the child was properly restrained, head injuries were common as a result of hitting something (such as the back of the front seats) or being thrown around. The bottom anchors were designed to lock the seat base more firmly in place against the bottom and rear of the car’s backseat, and to reduce the freeplay that was typical of improperly installed seatbelts.
As long as LATCH is utilized correctly, infant safety seats should remain firmly in place throughout the majority of collisions, which significantly increases your child’s chances of escaping unharmed.
1: LATCH is a Collaborative Effort
Because LATCH is a federally mandated program created and overseen by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, “collaborative” may not be the first word that springs to mind. Even though the standards were intended to simplify the selection and installation of infant safety seats, thereby increasing overall safety, the initiative has recently sparked discussion about how to improve automotive safety for children and reduce the staggering number of car crash-related injuries and deaths.
Before the new regulations went into effect, automakers and car-seat manufacturers were given extensive notice. Designers and engineers had roughly a decade to devise and implement methods to comply with LATCH requirements, but when the systems were pushed out, it became apparent that simply conforming to the NHTSA’s specifications allowed a great deal of space for interpretation. It was inevitable that things would not align perfectly. Some examples: Due to the fact that cars are not all the same width, their backseats are not all the same size and are segmented differently, therefore the positioning of the bottom anchors will vary considerably between vehicles. In sedans, the top tethers are often fastened to the shelf between the rear seat and the rear window; in SUVs, the tether points may be located on the roof or on the roof pillars. Similar to that. No one knew if the LATCH initiative would be successful until the products actually reached consumers, as each producer was essentially out for themselves.
The ensuing inconveniences conveyed the message that a set of standards simply wasn’t sufficient to get the job done, as LATCH wasn’t much easier to use than the earlier generations of baby safety seats that were not governed by any standards. Individuals continued to install chairs improperly, bewildered by the variances in a supposedly infallible procedure. Yet, after the compulsory implementation of LATCH, some things have become simpler. In fact, Edmunds.com reported in the fall of 2011 that automakers and infant safety seat manufacturers are establishing communication channels in an effort to implement and build compatible products. Informational films and online courses are two emerging methods that marketers use to reach consumers. These guides are useful, plus they have an additional advantageous side effect. These interactive and technological advancements convey the message that parents must also assume responsibility for their children’s safety and utilize all available resources to promote their family’s health and well-being.
Sometimes, a cooperative effort is all that is required for a fantastic concept to come together. LATCH has demonstrated that if legislators, manufacturers, and parents continue to collaborate, future car safety advances can only be positive.