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Car Seat Safety: When NOT to Use the LATCH Anchors

 

Did you know that the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has deemed that car seats should NOT be installed using the lower LATCH anchors if the combined weight of the child and the car seat is over 65 lbs. The concern is that the lower LATCH anchors in your vehicle may not be strong enough to restrain a heavier child under severe crash loads. Once your child and the car seat exceed the weight limit, you should stop using the lower anchors and switch to a seatbelt installation.

Using a seatbelt method to install a car seat may seem pretty forward, but many drivers don't actually know how to safely install a car seat that way. You must lock or secure the seatbelt in order to properly and safely install a car seat.

Getting Started

Before installing a car seat with a seatbelt, read both manuals for your car and the child's car seat. The vehicle manual will tell you what kind of seatbelts your vehicle has. The car seat manual will tell you what kinds of seat belts the car seat can be used with and if the car seat comes equipped with any additional locking features of its own. It's important to make sure that your car seat and you vehicle are compatible. 

In order to properly install a car seat with any method, it's imperative that the seat is snuggly installed and cannot move more than one inch on any side. To achieve that goal with a seat belt, the seat belt must be locked. Below are methods to install your car seat safely with a seatbelt.

Lock the seatbelt retractor

Most seat belts have a switchable retractor with two modes:

1. Emergency Locking Retractor- the seat belt strap can be pulled freely and will only lock into place when the car abruptly stops. This is the mechanism that locks your seatbelt when you pull too hard on it or slam on the brakes. 
2. Switchable Retractor- This version has both an emergency lock and can also be switched to an automatic lock mode, meaning the seatbelt will lock in place until released manually. 

You can switch between the two in most modern vehicles. When using only a seatbelt, you must make sure your car’s seat belt is in a locked position. An emergency locking retractor alone is not enough to install a car seat: the seat belt MUST be locked pre-crash when a car seat is installed so that it is locked at all times.

Switch between the two by pulling the belt out as far as it can go, and then feeding the seat belt slowly back in. You will hear a clicking noise, and when you will can't pull out any seatbelt you know it's been switched to the locked position.

Here is a video for reference:

 Video by: Carseats for the Littles

Vehicles with Locking Latch plates/buckles

A locking latch plate is a buckle that has a mechanism to lock the seatbelt at the lap. It's easier to see, so here is another video example:

 

 Video by: Carseats for the Littles

Car Seat Locking clip

Most car seats come with a locking clip and can generally be found somewhere on the car seat itself. To install the car seat with a locking clip, first buckle the seat belt with the car seat and remove all of the slack. Then, unbuckle the seat belt being careful to note how tight it needs to be and keeping the straps together. Attach the locking clip on the belt no more than an inch from the seatbelt buckle and re-buckle the seat.

Video for reference:

 

 Video by: Carseats for the Littles

Built in Car seat Lock

Some car seats have a lock built into the car seat itself. These can generally be used on vehicles that have a lap/shoulder belt with an emergency locking retractor. 

Here is an example:

 

Video by: Combi USA

Conclusion

Always refer to the car seat manual for proper installation guidelines. This blog is intended to be  a basic guide; visit a Child Passenger Safety Technician to ensure proper installation if available. 

Stay safe!

Sources:

https://carseatblog.com/28049/lockoffs-what-you-need-to-know-which-carseats-have-them/

https://travelcarseatmom.com/what-is-a-locking-clip/

https://safety1st.zendesk.com/hc/en-us/articles/206289615-What-if-my-seat-belts-don-t-stay-tightly-locked-when-the-car-seat-parked-

https://www.cars.com/articles/how-to-install-a-car-seat-with-a-seat-belt-1420663010448/

https://carseatblog.com/26565/new-federal-regulations-regarding-latch-weight-limits-what-parents-need-to-know/

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