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Borrowing LATCH Anchors

 

Can You Safely Use Those Center LATCH Anchors?

There are 3 top mistakes we child passenger safety technicians see when we work with parents who want to do latch_symbolwhat’s best and safe with their children’s carseats: a harness that’s too loose, an installation that’s too loose, and a chest clip that’s too low. Following closely in 4th place is using the lower LATCH connectors in the center seating position of the back seat where they can’t be used. Really, any of these mistakes can be put in any order—they’re almost interchangeable given how often we see them.

Hold up, now. You mean I can’t use LATCH in the center seating position?

All passenger vehicles manufactured after September 1, 2002, have lower LATCH anchors (there are exceptions, of course). There are some vehicles that do have a specific set of lower LATCH anchors designed for use in the center position of the back seat, but most vehicles do not. That’s surprising to a large number of parents who rightly feel that the center of the back seat is the safest spot. It’s furthest from side impacts and LATCH generally is the easier method to get a tighter installation. So why is it that lower anchors aren’t available to be used in the center position and why is it that some CPS techs recommend using lower anchors in the middle while some don’t?

The Basics

Lower LATCH anchors consist of 2 U-shaped metal bars welded to a sturdy bar. The anchors are spaced 280 mm apart, which to those of us not used to the metric system measures out to 11” center to center. The lower anchors are a system, designed to be used together because they are all welded together as one big piece. LATCH altogether is a system as well: Lower Anchors and Tethers for CHildren. The Tether referred to in the acronym is on a convertible or combination carseat and is generally used only for forward-facing carseats to hold the top of the carseat in place (some carseats can be tethered rear-facing—that’s a different topic). We never call lower LATCH straps “tethers” but sometimes you’ll see them referred to as “lower connector straps.”

MDX LATCH assembly LATCH_sketch

First let’s discuss the concept of “borrowing.” Just as there are a variety of vehicles with back seats, so are there a variety of configurations for lower LATCH anchors. In all 4-door sedans, there will be 2 sets of lower anchors in the outboard (outside) positions, for a total of 4 lower anchors. You can safely install 2 carseats with those lower anchors. In sedans, trucks, and SUVs with big enough back seats, there will be a third set in the middle. Aha! That’s the key—space. Even though you may have 6 total lower LATCH anchors, you may not be able to install 3 carseats using those anchors. Think about it: the LATCH anchors are spaced 11” across and the narrowest carseats are 17” across. The math simply doesn’t add up. Again, in the widest back seats, you can do it, but you have to remember that LATCH was designed to be a convenience feature; it’s not going to work in all situations. In some vehicles, there may be 5 lower anchors: 2 on each outboard side with 1 randomly stuck somewhere in the middle. What engineer was smoking what when they came up with that design? Well, in this case, you can use lower anchors in the center by using the inside lower anchor from one outboard side with that randomly placed center anchor. The carseat will have an offset installation; that is, it won’t be perfectly in the center. Here’s an example:

2010 Honda CR-V has one dedicated center lower anchor

2010 Honda CR-V has one dedicated center lower anchor that is used with the inboard passenger side lower anchor

2014 Ford Focus has a set of lower anchors for each outboard position

2014 Ford Focus has a set of lower anchors to be used in each outboard position

2011 Acura MDX

2011 Acura MDX has 3 full sets of lower anchors

Can you use lower LATCH anchors to install your carseat in the center of the back seat if there aren’t any dedicated lower anchors in that position? Perhaps. This practice is known as LATCH anchor “borrowing” and you have to consult both your vehicle AND your carseat manual to see if they allow it. If one doesn’t, you can’t. It’s like asking mom if you can eat a piece of candy and she says no, so you ask dad. They both have to say yes. Why? Remember back to that lower anchor spacing of 11”. In a crash, forces are put on both the metal anchors (vehicle) and the plastic belt path (carseat). Because you are now using a spacing that is different than 11” (most likely more, and sometimes over 20”), the crash forces are coming at angles that either haven’t been tested for or have been tested but have failed.

Graco LATCH anchor wording

Graco LATCH anchor wording

Britax LATCH anchor wording

Britax LATCH anchor wording

Some manufacturers have tested for these contingencies and if you’re lucky enough to have a match, you can borrow those LATCH anchors.

2014 Ford Focus Borrowing

What’s a parent to do?

If you want to install your carseat in the center seating position with LATCH and your vehicle manual specifies that you have a set of dedicated lower anchors, go for it! It’ll likely be an easier installation for you. Don’t forget to check the label on the side of the carseat or the carseat manual for any LATCH weight limits, both rear- and forward-facing.

If you don’t have a set of dedicated lower anchors and want to borrow the inside anchors from the outboard positions, check both the vehicle AND carseat manuals to see if both allow it. The verbiage may be subtle (see the Graco manual excerpt), so if you’re unsure, don’t hesitate to call customer service.

If you don’t have specific lower LATCH anchors for the middle seating position, have no worries. A seat belt installation is perfectly acceptable since LATCH is a convenience feature. If, however, you find that you can’t get a tight installation using the seat belt and you can get a better installation with the lower anchors, it’s preferable to move the carseat to the outboard position and use LATCH. An installation where the carseat moves less than 1” trumps the center location of the back seat if you can’t get a tight install there.

Now that you know not to make the #4 mistake of borrowing lower LATCH anchors when you shouldn’t, it’s time to make sure that your child’s harness is snug enough, the chest clip is in the correct location, and the carseat is installed tightly enough. I’ve covered 2 of those mistakes in this article, so if you need a refresher on the others, take a glance at this blog: http://carseatblog.com/26763/carseatblog-quick-tip-proper-harness-tightness.

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Graco Fined for Slow Buckle Recall

graco logoGraco will be paying $10 million in fines to the U.S. government as a result of failing to notify the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) about its buckle safety issues last year; the buckle tongues were getting stuck in the buckles, causing release issues. We have blogs on the initial recall here, NHTSA’s reaction here, and the infant seat recall here for further reading. Graco has to pay $3 million outright to the government and spend an additional $7 mil on programs to improve child safety. Graco hasn’t yet outlined what those safety measures are.

http://abcnews.go.com/Business/wireStory/graco-fined-delayed-reporting-seat-buckle-complaints-29776037

Graco Recall Buckle Identification

 

Response from Graco:

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has concluded its investigation of Graco’s reporting of consumer complaints about difficulty opening car seat buckles. While we evaluated the issue in a timely manner and were cooperative with NHTSA’s investigation, we regret that we fell short of NHTSA’s expectations for data evaluation and reporting procedures. We accept this civil penalty and the additional funding requested by NHTSA for a joint venture involving child passenger safety initiatives in the future. We are eager to work with NHTSA and pleased with their decision to focus this money on children’s safety.

As part of our continuous improvement process, we have already taken concrete steps to further update our compliance evaluation and reporting process. We will use the insights from this investigation to further this mission, and assure our consumers that we remain committed to the safety of our products.

 

The Pinch Test

How do you know if your harness is tight enough? Give it the Pinch Test.

Pinch TestYour child won’t be safe in his carseat unless his harness is snug. The Pinch Test is the accepted method for testing harness tightness.

An outdated method for checking tightness is to stick a finger (or two) under the harness at the shoulder, but because we all have different finger sizes, it can lead to very a loose harness.

It’s never been acceptable to “pinch an inch” of harness for tightness.

 

Breaking News – New Safety 1st “Grow and Go” 3-in-1 Carseat from Dorel

Greetings from the Lifesavers Conference in Chicago! We’re very excited to share some news and our first glimpse of several new and updated products from Dorel being showcased here at the conference!

One very welcome announcement is that by the end of 2015 all Dorel convertible carseats (Cosco, Safety 1st & Eddie Bauer), will have a 2 year age minimum for forward-facing! Also, all the boosters will now have a 40 lbs. minimum weight rating! 

Grow and Go: the new Safety 1st 3-in-1 (Rear-facing, forward-facing, booster) carseat

This new 3-in-1 model will eventually replace the Alpha Omega  platform which has been around since the late 1990’s! (Can I get an “Amen”!)

20150315_090903 20150315_090910 20150315_090949 20150315_091214 20150315_091221 20150315_122519 20150315_091911

Rear-Facing limits: 5-40 lbs., 40″ tall or less

Forward-facing limits: 22-65 lbs., up to 52″ tall

Booster limits: 40 – 100 lbs.

Bottom harness slot measurement: 6″

Top harness slot measurement: 17″

Features: No rethread harness, buckle holders, easy remove cover

ETA: Summer 2015

MSRP: $169

 

Updated Safety 1st Advance 65 EX Air +

Now with a rear-facing weight limit of 5-50 lbs.! Shipping will begin in April. MSRP $189. The “EX” model is the new one with the expanded limits.

  • Specs: Rear-facing 5-50 lbs., 19-49″; Forward-facing 20-65 lbs., 34-49″
  • Features: No-rethread harness with 10 height positions, 4 position base, Air Protect + technology

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Updated Dreamride Car Bed 

Now with lower anchor attachments!

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First Look – New Hauck ProSafe 35 Infant Carseat!

It’s a busy morning here at the Lifesavers Conference and we’re happy to see that Hauck/iCoo is here showing off their new infant carseats for the US and Canadian markets! We first saw the prototype of this new infant carseat at the ABC Expo last fall and we’re excited that it’s almost ready to ship to retailers.

Hauck is a German company that has been in existence for nearly a century and already has carseats in the European market. The ProSafe 35 has already passed US and Canadian testing, and will be rated from 4-35 lbs. and up to about 33″ tall. (Currently they only have the height as 85 cm, but it will be conferred for US manuals.) The iCoo version of this infant seat hasn’t been named yet (only the Hauck model will be called ProSafe 35) but we will update when we have more info.

Hauck ProSafe 35 infant carseat Hauck ProSafe 35 infant carseat Hauck ProSafe 35 infant carseat

The seat has an extremely tall shell, with a seatback height of about 20 inches, meaning it could potentially fit a 2-year-old child. There is also a well contoured infant insert for use with newborns and small babies. One really nice thing about the infant insert is that it is reversible between a “summer” and “winter” side, with slick and fleecy-feeling fabric, respectively. At ABC, they only had a thin prototype of the insert, but they now have a nicely padded one that will be used in production models.

MSRP on the Hauck version is $199 as a stand-alone seat. A travel system will be available in the future.

Icoo stroller

The iCoo version will be available as a travel system for $799 or $899, depending on model of stroller.

Available May 2015 in the USA, and August in Canada.