Lower Anchors & Seat Belts - Safer Together?

Lower Anchors & Seat Belts - Safer Together?

Lower Anchors & Seat Belts - Safer Together?

(Spoiler Alert: No)

Have you ever wondered if using both the Lower Anchors and a seat belt to secure the car seat would be safer? After all two layers of protection are better than one – right?

The short answer is – it depends…

You can use them at the same time ONLY if both your car seat manual and your cars owners manual AGREE. Otherwise It’s can actually be frighteningly dangerous! (Be sure to check the vehicle owner’s manual AND the car seat guide)

The Facts:

According to Center for Disease Control’s Studies:

  • 663 US children 12 years and younger died in motor vehicle crashes in 2015.  More than 121,350 were injured in 2014.
  • More than 618,000 children 0-12 rode without the use of a car seat, booster seat, or a seat belt at least some of the time.
  • Of the children 12 and younger who died in a crash in 2015 (for which restraint use was known), 35% were not buckled up correctly.

When Help is Not Helpful

We’ve all been there – learning the right way to install a car seat safely is confusing, especially if you’ve never done it before!  Relying on help from parents or those who had children many years ago can cause a lot of extra misinformation. The rules change all the time and what was the right way to do things before may not be the safest way now!

Your best bet? Visit www.safekids.org to find a certified car seat technician (CPST) in your area. They will help you install the car seat properly – and for free.

So what is the LATCH System Anyway?

Designed by experts at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia; the LATCH acronym stands for Lower Anchors and Tethers for Children. It was “developed to make it easier to correctly install child safety seats without using seat belts.” LATCH can be found in vehicles as well as infant, convertible and forward-facing child safety seats, made after Sept. 1, 2002.

Seat belts and Car Seats

In older vehicles or vehicles without the LATCH System, seat belts are used to install car seats.  Car seats have special slots on the backs and sides (depending on the model) that allow a seat belt to be threaded through, anchoring it to the vehicle’s seat and making it safe for children to sit in. Different seat belt systems have different locking mechanisms. Not sure where to look? Look in your car’s owners manual under the child restraint section.

Why Using the LATCH System and a Seat belt Can Be Unsafe

If one way keeps the car seat firmly in place it might seem like two would be even safer but it’s actually dangerous! By using both the Lower Anchors and the seat belt system when you shouldn’t, the force of the crash will place stress on the wrong areas of the car seat, which can cause the car seat not to function properly.

In fact, most manufactures advise that using both doesn’t allow the car seat to move properly during a crash. Preventing natural movement (the way the car seat is designed to move in a crash) interferes with the distribution of crash forces which means that instead of the force of the crash being absorbed correctly by the car seat it could be redirected through your child!

Still want “Extra” safety?

Make sure your are using the top tether with your forward facing car seat. It is the most commonly overlooked install step and the easiest one-time safety step too.

So Which One Should I Use?

When rear facing, most child restraints can be installed with Lower Anchors. Keep in mind most cars do not have lower anchor capability in the center position. In that case a seat belt install is just as safe! Lower anchors were designed with convenience in mind. When you are installing your child’s forward facing car seat you should always choose to use the seat belt and top tether. Lower Anchor limits are only for use up to 65 lbs or in cars before 2008 are 55lbs (these limits include the weight of the car seat). Because children grow so quickly, using the seat belt to secure the car eat eliminates the possibility of your child being too heavy for LATCH!

Wait – So I Can’t Use LATCH Forever?

Yes – it is super important to remember that there is a weight limit when using the LATCH System.  This simply means that as your child grows older, you will need to switch to using the seat belt system instead of the LATCH System. Your child’s car seat manual will tell you what that weight limit is. When it doubt consult with your local CPST!

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