UPDATED: Just when you thought you’d earned your car seat installation badge, there’s something else parents need to know. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, an American safety authority, is now requiring warning labels be put on new car seats reminding parents not to use the lower LATCH anchors (or, as they’re known in Canada, UAS, the Lower Universal Anchorage System) once the child and their seat reach a combined weight of 65 pounds. (To put this into perspective, car seats vary from 9 to 36 pounds.) So, if your kid plus their seat exceeds 65 pounds, the new labels say you should use the seat belt to safely secure the child seat in place.
LATCH, a lower clamping system combined with a top tether that was introduced in 2002, takes the guesswork out of car seat installation by letting you clip the seat to anchors in the back seat. But, because car seats are heavier than they used to be when LATCH was first introduced and regulations have changed (meaning children are using their car seats for longer), now safety experts are concerned that the potential excess weight wouldn’t allow the anchors to hold a child securely during a crash. It remains to be seen whether or not these new labelling recommendations will be adopted by Canadian regulators, but here’s what you need to know.
This new recommendation applies to heavier and typically older children exclusively. LATCH/UAS is still a perfectly safe way to secure your child’s seat in the vehicle, provided his or her weight combined with the car seat is 65 pounds or less. The warning only applies to lower anchors, top tethers should still be used.
How does this affect me?
“The impact for Canadian parents remains the same in that, as always, they must install their child restraint in accordance with the seat and vehicle manufacturers’ recommendations,” says Daniel Savoie of Transport Canada. “While some vehicles offer anchorage systems for higher combined masses, the current Canadian/US standard for vehicle child restraint anchorage systems specifies that the anchorages must withstand a combined mass of child and seat of 65 pounds. To help guard against misuse, the US regulation will now require a label to inform users of this standard. Transport Canada is monitoring the developments in the United States with respect to the new label requirements.”
“The most important thing you can do when installing a car seat is read the manual,” says David Drutz, the owner and certified car seat technician at Kiddie Proofers in Toronto. “Go on YouTube, go to the manufacturers’ site—there will be plenty of instructions and videos. My rule is, don’t let the seat move. Tighten, tighten, tighten! Make sure the seat is really tight, and make sure your child is really secure in his or her seat.”
Many car seat installation clinics are available nationwide to give you peace of mind. “Parents can come in with an already installed car seat, and many clinics will look at it for free,” says Drutz. “We’re about the child’s safety first.”