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Where do they grow these giant kids?

Boost_Til_8We’ve all seen it before. I’m talking about the information in pamphlets and flyers regarding kids and booster seats. Most read like this: Kids should remain in booster seats until they are at least 8 years old, unless they are 4’9″ tall.

Excuse me? I don’t know where this age 8 came from but where I live we don’t see too many kids who are almost 5 feet tall at 8 years or younger. I’m sure they’re out there but seriously, most 2nd and 3rd Graders are NOT the size of small adults. So what gives?

Honestly, I have no idea why it’s so common to see age 8 listed as the “magic number” when kids can graduate to the adult seatbelt. Yes, I realize that it often says “at least 8″ but trust me when I say that it’s not the “at least” part that most parents remember. Most don’t even remember the 4’9″ part of the message. So where does that magic #8 come from? They sure aren’t referencing the CDC growth charts!

Maybe it’s a social change thing. We’re still getting a lot of parents used to the idea that their 6 and 7-year-olds need a booster. Perhaps we’re worried that we’ll turn them off completely and they’ll think we’re all nuts if we tell them the truth. And age 8 seems like a reasonable number for most parents to ditch the booster seat, right?

8 year old still needs a booster!

Wrong.

Most 8-year-old kids do not fit safely in the adult seatbelt of most vehicles. Sure, there are always exceptions, like some 3rd row seats which are clearly designed with smaller people in mind. But generally speaking, most kids do not actually pass the 5-Step Test until they are at least 57″ (4’9″ tall). For many kids even 57″ tall isn’t tall enough to get optimal belt fit.

Now, let’s have a look at those handy-dandy CDC growth charts. An 8-year-old boy who measures in the 95th percentile for both weight and height is 35kg (77 lbs) and 54″ tall.  And an 8-year-old boy who measures in the 50th percentile for weight and height is 25kg (55 lbs) and 50″ tall. According to the growth charts – a boy who measures in the 95th percentile for height won’t hit 4’9″ (57″) until he is 9 years old. That kid in the 50th percentile won’t get there until he’s 11. And a kid in the 10th percentile for height will be 13 before they reach 4’9″.

So I’d like to know where they grow these huge 8-year-olds that everyone seems to be referencing? We know that we’re failing epically at keeping kids in boosters until they are really big enough to fit properly in the adult seatbelt but maybe our “helpful” literature and awareness campaigns are partially to blame? I think it’s time to ditch all references to 8-year-olds and move to something more realistic like 10-12.

NHTSA Questions Graco’s Logic Regarding Recent Buckle Recall

NHTSALast month, Graco recalled close to 3.8 million carseats due to an issue with sticky buckles. However, they did not issue a recall for 1.8 million infant carseats, including all the various SnugRide models, which have used the same buckle in the past. Many parents have questioned the decision not to recall the infant seats, and now NHTSA has ordered Graco to explain their reasoning. Graco will have until March 20 to respond to the agency’s request.

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In the meantime, if you do need a replacement buckle for a Graco infant seat, you can request one by calling Graco 800-345-4109  (Monday through Friday from 9 a.m. until 5 p.m.). For more info on the buckle recall please see:  https://www.pages02.net/newellrubbermaid/harness-buckles .  For Canada, please see the Transport Canada Recall Information and Graco Baby Canada.

CPS Tech Talk: An in-depth look at new LATCH Limits

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For a few months now, the parenting world has been abuzz with confusion over these new LATCH limits. We at CarseatBlog have been trying to explain things in clear language so people don’t have to read through volumes of government documents to understand it all. Our recent post, New Federal Regulations Regarding LATCH Weight Limits – What Parents Need to Know gives a general summary of what most people need to know.

But what about those of you who want to know more? The nitty-gritty behind the why’s of the whole thing, and the small changes that have occurred since the time the new amendment was first proposed? That’s where this post comes in.

Changes to Labeling

First, let’s talk about a couple small changes.

Initially the new rule stated that after February 27, 2014, car seats would have to come with a label stating, “Do not use the lower anchors of the child restraint anchorage system (LATCH system) to attach this child restraint when restraining a child weighing more than “*.”  The asterisk would be a child weight that, when combined with the weight of the car seat, would not be greater than 65 lbs. For example, if a seat weighs 20 lbs, the label would say, “Do not use the lower anchors of the child restraint anchorage system (LATCH system) to attach this child restraint when restraining a child weighing more than 45 lbs.”

But some people raised concerns that the wording was unclear and might cause people to think they had to discontinue harness use at that weight, rather than simply switch to a seatbelt installation.

NHTSA listened to those concerns and has created a new solution that will be required starting February 27, 2015, or can be implemented sooner for manufacturers who want to. That solution is a diagram that is supposed to eliminate confusion.

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The idea is that the drawing shows lower anchors, and therefore makes it clear that it’s the lower anchors that are supposed to be discontinued at a certain weight (implying that it’s fine to keep using the seatbelt).

I applaud their effort, but I’m not sure the diagram will eliminate confusion, and I suspect it might even increase it. Yes, it says “lower anchors,” but a lot of parents don’t really understand what that means (as opposed to a top tether, or as opposed to a seatbelt which does, after all, anchor in the child seat). I think it’s very likely that people will look at the diagram, see webbing (of some sort) and assume that it’s no longer safe to install with LATCH or the seatbelt or top tethers. A better illustration might have been a drawing of a LATCH connector itself, but it’s probably too late now. Hopefully the new labeling won’t cause too much confusion.

Rounding the Weight

The second change in the final ruling about LATCH limit labeling is that manufacturers will have the option of rounding the maximum forward-facing child weight up to the next 5 lbs. The idea behind this was to make the numbers “cleaner.” For example, instead of saying that LATCH should be discontinued at 42 lbs, the label could state 45 lbs.

NHTSA did concede that in some cases, this could make the total weight of the child plus seat exceed 65 lbs. Say a seat weighs 37 lbs. 65 minus 37 is 28 lbs, but to keep things simple, the manufacturer could state a child weight of 30 lbs. That means that the actual total weight would be 67 lbs (and feasibly a combination could get as high as 69 lbs.) but NHTSA believes anchors will be strong enough to allow for that slight variation.

It is important to note that the rules are slightly different (and slightly more confusing) for rear-facing. NHTSA is ok with allowing the total forward-facing weight to go a bit over 65 lbs because the top tether helps reduce some of the force on the lower anchors. Rear-facing, though, the lower anchors take all the force. In that situation, NHTSA doesn’t want the LATCH weight to exceed 65 lbs at all. So if manufacturers want to round the weights to nice numbers they can, but they need to assume a 60-lb total when they do. That ensures that the total weight will not be more than 65 lbs, even if they round up.

Confused yet?

Let’s take the Graco Smart Seat as an example. It weighs just under 34 lbs. That means the total child weight would be 31 lbs. (65-34=31) Graco has two choices for listing the forward-facing LATCH limit. They can put 31, or they can round up to 35, which puts the actual limit at 69, but that’s still considered compliant. (Graco can also put a lower number if they’d like.) For rear-facing, they can use the actual 31-lb weight or a lower number, but they cannot round up since the total rear-facing LATCH weight must not exceed 65 lbs.

That means that a seat could have different LATCH limits rear-facing and forward-facing. (In cases where the weight limit is different, manufacturers will either have to take the lower of the two weights and include one limit and diagram, or they can provide two separate ones. In the situation above, Graco could choose to list a 30-lb weight limit regardless of which direction the seat faces.)

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Background behind the Decisions

So what logic is behind this madness? Believe it or not, it actually makes some sense.

Buckled Up, But Still in Danger!

So you’ve done the safest thing for your baby and bought one of CarseatBlog’s Recommended Carseats.  You’ve installed it correctly and buckled-up your child properly at the pickup line from daycare.  What’s next for your most precious cargo?  Take a few swigs from the container of vodka in the glove compartment to relax your nerves before the drive home?  Roll up the windows and smoke a celebratory cigarette in one hand as you drive away with your baby and pre-schooler in back?  Hand the crying infant a rattle comprised of a bottle of pills from mom’s purse?  Let your bored 4-year old play with the clever tools in a 24-function utility knife from dad’s pocket?  Sound silly?  Then why do so many people get their kids buckled-up, then proceed to pick up their cellphone and start dialing a call?  Even as they drive through the pick-up line with dozens of other kids running around!

It seems insane sometimes.  Watching erratic driving at schools, pediatrician’s office parking lots, near residential parks, you name it.  The reason is almost always the same.  The driver has a phone in one hand, held up to their ear, completely absorbed in conversation while they totally oblivious to others on the road. Maybe you’ve seen the unthinkable, too?  A teen driver with, like, both hands texting on the wheel.  Just sayin’! Or, the adult with a phone in one hand, and in the other hand is a cigarette, a sandwich or a hairbrush and barely the palm of one hand resting on top of the wheel.   OMG.  Some peeps are too important not to be multitasking.  Obviously.  I think to myself that they will have plenty of time for that other stuff in jail when the other unthinkable event happens.  For me, just the presence of my kids in back is enough to be considered distracted driving.  Apparently, it’s not enough for many people I see at school drop-offs and pick-ups.  KWIM?

In many states, there is now a deterrent.  New laws prevent the use of handheld phones entirely, just like many states that have enacted primary child passenger safety laws.  Buckle your 2-year old without a carseat or touch that phone while driving and you pay a fine if you are caught.   My state of Illinois enacted such a law this year.  It may seem harsh to some.  In some states where total cellphone bans apply only to young drivers, others may QQ that our teens are now being subject to nanny state restrictions.  Whatever.  To many parents and safety advocates, the real question is, “What exactly is so important that they are putting at risk their own life, the life of their children, their passengers, pedestrians and those in other vehicles?”  Srsly.  They can’t possibly wait 5 or 10 minutes to chat so they can safely drive home from their child’s school or other errand?  Really? What is preventing them from pulling over to the side of the road or into a parking space to send that text message?  Hashtag: Insanity.  Distracted Driving kills.  Ya Know?

We may never know the answer to why that call can’t wait.  Some people will continue to make very bad choices in all sorts of things.  And even if you avoid this risky behavior yourself, keep in mind that you’ve armed your teenager with a cellphone and the ability to drive a car, a weapon combination as lethal as any other!  IKR?  Those who have never raised a teen will lament that parents should just enforce adequate rules and discipline, but it doesn’t always work that easily in reality.  Perhaps they were perfect kids and have never experienced a typical teenager.  For those whose phone calls are too important to delay, or teens who will find a way make that call to their BFF regardless, there is a better way.  Hands-Free.  Many new cars have hands-free bluetooth interfaces, though these are often in pricey options packages.   While some studies have shown that simply talking on a call is dangerous, newer studies are showing that hands-free calling is at least a somewhat safer alternative, especially when you consider having to pickup the phone and dial a number.

New Federal Regulations Regarding LATCH Weight Limits – What Parents Need to Know

We’ve been waiting for clarification of this final ruling for an entire year and we’re just getting details this week – days shy of the Feb 27, 2014, implementation date. Many CPS Technicians and advocates have been aware that these changes were coming but we were also aware that there were petitions pending so we were all waiting for the final word from NHTSA. There was much speculation that implementation of these changes would be delayed or that NHTSA would increase the weight limits, but none of those things happened.

So… in a nut shell, here is what parents and caregivers need to know:

There are two changes to federal safety standards going into effect this week that will affect some carseats manufacturered on or after Feb 27, 2014. First is a new label requirement. While that doesn’t sound like a big deal – it actually is. NHTSA has ruled that carseats with a 5-point harness should not be installed using the lower LATCH anchors if the combined weight of your child and the carseat exceeds 65 lbs. In these cases, you should discontinue using the lower anchors in your vehicle to install your carseat and switch to a seatbelt installation instead when your child reaches a certain weight. The label will tell you at what point you should make that switch.

The concern is that the lower LATCH anchors in your vehicle may not be strong enough to restrain a very heavy child in a very heavy carseat under severe crash loads. It makes sense – mass is mass regardless of whether it’s the mass of the child or the mass of the carseat. Both are going to exert forces on the lower LATCH anchor bars when they are loaded in a crash.

If your carseat was manufactured before Feb 27, 2014 and the 5-pt harness has a weight limit of more than 40 lbs. please check your carseat instruction manual for guidance on LATCH weight limits. There may or may not be limits listed  - Dorel and Evenflo don’t generally list LATCH weight limits but Graco and Britax do. Also check this link to find out if your vehicle manufacturer has LATCH weight limits

Since parents probably don’t know how much their carseat weighs, going forward NHTSA is going to require the carseat manufacturers to “do the math” for you if there is any chance that the combined total of kid weight and carseat weight may be more than 65 lbs. Many carseat manufacturers are already listing LATCH weight limits on their seats with high harness weight limits.  Pictured below is the current Chicco NextFit label. The NextFit is rated up to 65 lbs in the forward-facing position but it weighs almost 25 lbs. Therefore according to the NextFit instructions you must switch to a seatbelt installation (plus tether) once your child reaches 40 lbs.

Not all carseats will have LATCH weight limits but it will be the responsibility of the carseat manufacturer to list one if necessary. For example, Graco knows exactly how much each of their carseats weigh and they know the maximum weight limits on the 5-point harness for each of their seats too.

  • The Graco ComfortSport harness is only rated to 40 lbs. and the seat itself definitely doesn’t weigh more than 25 lbs. so the new label requirement doesn’t apply to this seat. You can use LATCH (rear-facing or forward-facing) to the weight limits of a ComfortSport without concern.
  • The Graco Classic Ride is rated up to 50 lbs. with the harness but the seat itself weighs less than 15 lbs. so once again – the new label requirement doesn’t apply here and you can use LATCH (rear-facing or forward-facing) to the weight limits of a Classic Ride.
  •  A bigger, heavier seat like the Graco Nautilus will require this new label that tells parents when to switch to a seatbelt installation. The 5-point harness on the Nautilus is rated up to 65 lbs. and the seat itself  weighs about 20 lbs. so the label will probably tell you to discontinue installation with the lower LATCH anchors and switch to installation with seatbelt (plus tether) once your child weighs 45 lbs.

It’s up to you to keep track of how much your child weighs and to make the switch to seatbelt plus tether once your child exceeds the listed LATCH weight limit. It’s important to point out that this new requirement addresses weight limits for the lower anchors in your vehicle but does NOT impose a weight limit on the tether anchor. This is important because we always want you to use the tether if a carseat is installed forward-facing in a seating position that has a designated tether anchor.

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Currently there are no infant (rear-facing only) carseats that are so heavy that they could exceed the new 65 lbs. combined LATCH weight limits.  So if you have a kid in a rear-facing only infant seat – don’t worry about these new limits.

However, there are a few exceptionally heavy convertible seats that also have high rear-facing weight limits and consumers who buy these seats (manufactured after 2/27/14) will find labels and instructions telling them what the LATCH weight limits are for rear-facing (and separately for forward-facing). Convertible seats that will be required to have rear-facing lower anchor weight limits will include Diono convertibles, Graco Smart Seat & Clek Foonf.  In some cases the rear-facing LATCH weight limit could be as low as 25 or 30 lbs. child weight.

The second change to federal safety standards that is also being implemented this week involves testing with the new 10 year old Hybrid III dummy. This dummy weighs about 78 lbs. and is 51″ tall. Any carseat manufactured after Feb 27, 2014 that has a 5-point harness rated beyond 65 lbs. will be required to fit this 10 yr old dummy and also be required to pass certain crash test performance standards using this dummy. Since the 10-yr-old dummy is huge – it won’t fit in most convertible seats, which is why you’ll see many carseat manufacturers backtracking on the maximum weight limits of their convertibles and some higher-weight combination seats too. Seats that may have been rated to 70 lbs. or higher in the past may now have a weight limit of 65 lbs. Some manufacturers have already backtracked to 65 lbs., others will be doing so shortly as the new requirements are phased in this week.

The Britax Frontier 90 and Pinnacle 90 will retain their 90 lb. harness weight limits as those seats are already tested with the 10 yr old dummy. We know Graco is working on a new Argos 80 (we reported on it from ABC) which will be taller than the current Argos 70 combination seat and will be reinforced to pass testing with the new dummy. When we have more details about other higher-weight harness combination seats, we will share them here.

10 year old Hybrid III dummy

 

Want to know more? Dive deeper with our 2nd article on the new LATCH limits.