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New York Rear-Facing Until 2 Law Effective Nov 1, 2019

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Effective today, November 1, 2019, New York joins 11 other states (including neighboring NJ, PA & CT) in legislating that children should ride in a rear-facing carseat until they are at least 24 months old. A rear-facing carseat provides the best protection for a young child. In a crash, a rear-facing seat helps to protect the fragile head, neck and spinal cord.

It is important for families to understand that there are 3 types of rear-facing car seats: Infant Seats, Convertible Seats, and All-in-One Seats. Most parents in the Northeast choose to use an infant car seat first although it’s also possible to skip the infant seat and use a convertible or all-in-one seat right from the start. When the infant car seat is outgrown (usually by height somewhere between 9-15 months), it is recommended that a larger convertible or all-in-one car seat with higher rear-facing weight and height limits be used. These seats should be installed in the rear-facing position until, at a minimum, the child reaches their 2nd birthday. The AAP and NHTSA recommend that children continue to use a rear-facing carseat until reaching the weight or height limit of the seat.

Rear-Facing Car Seat Types:

Infant Car Seat (Rear-Facing Only): Designed for babies, the infant carseat is a small, portable seat with a handle and a separate base. Infant seats can only be installed rear-facing. Babies often outgrow their infant carseat by height before their 1st birthday. Before the infant seat is outgrown, it is recommended that parents choose a convertible or all-in-one car seat and use it rear-facing until the child is at least 2 years old.  

Infant Seat: Rear-Facing Only

Convertible Car Seat: Designed for babies, toddlers, and preschool-age children. This type of seat is larger than the infant seat so it allows babies and toddlers to stay rear-facing until age 2, and beyond. A convertible seat can be used rear-facing first and then turned forward-facing once the child is older. 

Convertible: Rear-Facing & Forward-Facing

All-in-One Car Seat: Designed for babies, toddlers, preschoolers, and older children. This type of seat is larger than the infant car seat and can be used rear-facing, forward-facing and eventually as a booster. 

All-in-One Seat: Rear-Facing, Forward-Facing & Booster

NY Law Exemptions:

There are exceptions for children who outgrow a rear-facing seat by height or weight before 24 months. Should an exemption occur, that child may ride in an APPROPRIATE forward-facing seat (i.e., child meets manufacturer’s forward-facing requirements for age, weight & height). 

Full text of the New York’s V&T Law regarding the use of child restraints can be found here: https://www.nysenate.gov/legislation/laws/VAT/1229-C

New Virginia Law Requires Rear-Facing Until 2…Sort Of

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More and more states are adopting laws requiring children to remain in rear-facing carseats until at least 2 years old. The most recent is Virginia, which has a new law going into effect July 1, 2019.

Although Virginia’s law will require kids to rear-face until 2, a clause in the law makes it a bit less potent than many others: Kids can forward-face as soon as they meet the height and weight minimums prescribed by the seat. Since most seats have 20- or 22-pound minimums to forward-face, this law doesn’t change much in a practical sense.

It’s important to note, though, that some seats do have a 2-year minimum to ride forward-facing, and since Virginia requires kids to be properly secured, people with those seats couldn’t forward-face before then…although that would have been true under the existing law as well.

The law also provides exemptions for medical reasons, but people must carry documentation from a physician explaining why the child can’t use a carseat as required by law.

Fines for violating the law remain the same: $50 for the first offense and up to $500 for subsequent offenses.

Rear-facing beyond a year doesn’t need to be expensive. Most people will need a convertible car seat anyway, and there are many inexpensive models that can keep kids rear-facing for a long time. Virginia also has a robust Low-Income Safety Seat Program to provide seats to those who qualify.

Although Virginia’s law lacks the teeth of some other rear-facing-until-2 laws, hopefully it will help people understand the importance of rear-facing and will encourage them to do so.

You can read the full text of Virginia’s child restraint law here and a listing of all state laws at the IIHS website.

LATCH Is Getting Easier to Use: 2019 IIHS Vehicle LATCH Ratings

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We all know that many carseats are difficult to use, even for those who take on the daunting task of reading the manual first. Manufacturers do make advances over the years with new and improved designs that make carseats easier to install and use. One such innovation is LATCH, Lower Anchors and Tethers for CHildren, which has now been around for almost 20 years.

Original designs on both carseats and vehicles made LATCH difficult to install, and often even more difficult to uninstall. In particular, automobile manufacturers often did little to improve the location and visibility of their lower anchors and top tethers. Deeply hidden and angled lower anchors were common, and top tether anchors were sometimes too close, too far or extended to odd placements in the roof of an SUV or wagon.

  

In 2015, the IIHS added a rating system for LATCH to their automobile safety evaluations.  This simple addition has provided motivation for automakers to improve their designs.  According to the 2019 LATCH Ratings from IIHS:

Nearly three-quarters of 2019 vehicles have LATCH hardware that rates good or acceptable for ease of use, as automakers continue making improvements that help parents and caregivers properly install child restraints.

The results mark a shift from 2015, when IIHS launched its LATCH ease-of-use ratings. At that time, a majority of new vehicles rated poor or marginal.

Today, 21 vehicles earn the top rating of good+, 33 are rated good, and 88 rate acceptable. Forty-nine vehicles are marginal, and only four earn a poor rating. Among automakers, Toyota and Subaru are standouts for LATCH ease of use, while U.S. automakers lag behind. Installation in pickups remains tricky, compared with other types of vehicles.

We applaud the IIHS and automobile companies for improving the state of LATCH to make carseats easier to install!

Photo Credit: IIHS

For the technically inclined, in the IIHS rating system, LATCH hardware is rated “Good” if it meets the following criteria:

  • The lower anchors are no more than ¾ inch deep within the seat bight — the place where the seatback meets the bottom seat cushion — or slightly deeper if there is open access around them.
  • The lower anchors are easy to maneuver around. This is defined as having a clearance angle greater than 54 degrees.
  • The force required to attach a standardized tool representing a child seat connector to the lower anchors is less than 40 pounds.
  • Tether anchors are on the vehicle’s rear deck or in the middle of the seatback. They shouldn’t be at the very bottom of the seatback, under the seat, on the ceiling or on the floor.
  • The area where the tether anchor is found doesn’t have any other hardware that could be confused for the tether anchor. If other hardware is present, then the tether anchor must have a clear label located within 3 inches of it.

To earn a Good rating, two LATCH positions in the second row must meet all five criteria, and a third tether anchor must meet both tether criteria.

The Good+ rating is for vehicles that meet the criteria for a good rating and provide additional LATCH-equipped seating positions! For a two-row vehicle, that means having a 3rd Good or Acceptable LATCH seating position. The third position may use either dedicated anchors or anchors borrowed from other positions. In many vehicles that have lower anchors in the second-row outboard seating positions, LATCH can be used in the center position by “borrowing” one anchor from each side. Some vehicles have one dedicated anchor for the center seat and rely on a borrowed anchor for the other side.

Good+ Rating for 2018-19 Subaru Legacy

For a three-row vehicle to earn a Good+ rating, it must have one additional good or acceptable LATCH position (without borrowing) and tether anchors in ALL rear seating positions! The additional tether anchors must meet at least one of the two tether anchor criteria. If the vehicle has a second-row center seating position, it must have good or acceptable LATCH there (with or without borrowing).

Unfortunately, pickup trucks continue to be problematic. Currently, there are no pickups that earn a good rating. Only a few pickups earn an acceptable rating, and most are rated marginal. The problem is the tether anchors. In most pickups, the carseat’s tether strap must be routed through a loop behind the head restraint and then attached to another loop or anchor, typically in an adjacent seating position. It’s VERY confusing!

Tethering single carseat in Ram 1500 Crew Cab

“When we’ve done studies observing people installing child restraints, we’ve seen that the tether anchors in pickups are a real point of confusion,” Jermakian says. “We’re continuing to work with manufacturers to come up with solutions to this issue.”

Here at CarseatBlog, we would welcome any improvement to the current tether strap routing systems in most pickup trucks. There HAS to be a better way to overcome the challenge of creating more distance between the top of the carseat and the tether anchor attachment point in the vehicle. In the meantime, we do applaud Toyota for adding a diagram to the loop of webbing, so at least it draws attention to itself and provides a clue that it’s supposed to be used for something!

Tether loop in 2017 Toyota Tundra

 

Updated Consumer Reports Convertible Car Seat Ratings

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Back in late 2015, Consumer Reports released it’s first round of Convertible Car Seat Ratings based on it’s newer crash testing protocol.  We published an article about their testing and ratings at the time: https://carseatblog.com/36420/

Britax Boulevard ClickTight

Since then, they have added and updated a few models in their ratings.  The latest Britax ClickTight convertible models, Boulevard, Advocate and Marathon, now top their list in overall score and receive a “BEST” crash protection rating.  Some models like the Nuna Rava and Graco Extend2Fit were not tested in the original report.  Both have since been tested and receive “BETTER” crash protection ratings.  Also, updated versions of the Britax “G4.1” models have improved their crash protection ratings from “BASIC” to “BETTER”, they are now called the Britax Emblem and Allegiance.

For subscribers, the updated ratings can be found here: https://www.consumerreports.org/products/convertible-car-seat/ratings-overview/

We also discuss their latest round of testing for combination harness/booster car seats here: https://carseatblog.com/47321/