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Car seat labeling taking on safety

4/11/2014, 5:46 a.m.

New car seat labeling may help reduce child injuries on the road.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has revised weight-limit labeling for LATCH-installed car seats to include both the weight of the child and the car seat itself. Current guidance only accounts for the child’s weight.

LATCH stands for Lower Anchors and Tethers for Children.

Caregivers, unaware of weight limit restrictions, may be unknowingly exceeding weight limits by neglecting to factor in their child’s weight along with the increasingly heavy car seat, AAA says.

A majority of car seat installation experts have encountered weight-related errors.

A recent AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety survey of Child Passenger Safety Technicians, certified to check and educate parents on the installation of car seats, found that 85 percent of the technicians have encountered LATCH weight limits that exceed recommendations and nearly one in five reports seeing this often.

Michele Harris, AAA Traffic Safety Culture for the Auto Club Group director, says that exceeded weight limits may cause the lower anchors and tether to perform improperly in the event of a crash, leaving children vulnerable to injury or death.

“Clear labeling is a step in the right direction, but standardization of equipment and proper education of caregivers remain the priority,” Harris said.

The primary purpose of LATCH, required as of 2002, was to increase the likelihood that caregivers could achieve a correct car seat installation more often than when using the safety belt. However, according to the nonprofit AAA Foundation’s survey, more than half of safety technicians report that caregivers are less likely to install a child seat correctly using LATCH.

In addition to the CPST survey and to help shape federal regulations, the AAA Foundation project included an expert panel and human factors analyses of the LATCH system. The panel rated various LATCH usability issues based on the frequency that the mistakes occur and the severity of the injury potential.

The full research report and white paper were provided to NHTSA in December 2013.

Even with the best of intentions, many parents have trouble getting their car seats installed properly. For more information on car seat safety and a list of car seat inspection stations where a certified child passenger safety technician can inspect the car seat to make sure it is installed properly, visit http://safeseats4kids.aaa.com.

Visit www.aaafoundation.org for additional information.