Lower Anchors vs Seat Belts – Safer Together? (Spoiler Alert: Usually – No)

Lower Anchors vs Seat Belts – Safer Together? (Spoiler Alert: Usually – 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!




Six Common Car Seat Mistakes To Avoid

Six Common Car Seat Mistakes To Avoid

There are plenty of exciting things about having a baby – think endless snuggles, impossibly tiny outfits and leisurely stroller walks. But car seats? Those don’t typically make the “most exciting” cut.

Car seats are an inevitability of parenthood. You’re spending tons of time in your car with your child in tow – and, scarily, accidents happen. If your child is properly secured in the car seat, they’re less likely to be injured or even killed in a crash. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, kids two and under are 75% more likely to survive a crash if they’re secured properly. And, yes, it has to be a car seat — standard seat belts aren’t just ineffective for babies and toddlers and, in an accident, can actually cause a lot of harm.

Make Sure Your Car Seat Is Ready To Its Job

Car seats can only be effective if they’re installed and used correctly. Scarily millions of parents aren’t checking all of the boxes when it comes to their kids’ car seats. The National Highway Transportation Safety Administration reports nearly three in five car seats and one in five booster seats aren’t properly installed/used.

Yikes, right?

Avoid these six common mistakes every time you hop in the car:

  1. Not tightening the harness straps enough: There should be no slack in a car seat’s strap fabric – if you can lift and pinch the fabric with your fingers, there is too much slack and it needs to be tightened.

    Once you’ve double-checked yours, be sure you’re also taking a look at the top tether – about half of car seats don’t have a properly-installed tether, putting a child at risk in an accident.
  2. Placing harness clips in the wrong position: Many parents put clips too high or too low on a child’s chest, which can cause straps to slide off. To be most effective, clips should rest across the chest at armpit level.
  3. Not anchoring the car seat properly: You shouldn’t be able to move the seat to the left, right or forward more than an inch. If it moves more than that, it’s not anchored tightly enough — be sure to adjust immediately. Without the right anchoring, your child — and his car seat — could be tossed forward in a collision.
  4. Using the wrong type of car seat for your child’s height and weight: Be sure to check the manufacturer’s specifications before purchasing a seat. Your child should be well within the height and weight parameters of the seat you purchase. When they exceed these limits, it’s time for a new car seat.
  5. Not leaving the car seat to rear-facing long enough: According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, kids under two or kids who haven’t hit the height/weight limit (usually around 35 pounds — height limits vary by brand) should stay in a rear-facing position. When forward-facings, kids are more likely to get whiplash, spinal injuries or even die during an crash. While, yes, an older or taller child may have to bend his legs slightly — into a “frog position” — he’s better protected than he would be facing forward.
  6. Using dangerous traditional coats in the car seat: Getting them in and out of the car seat becomes even more of a challenge in the winter. How do you keep kids warm when puffy coats are as dangerous no-no? The alternative? Buckle Me Baby Coats, provides the warmth of a winter coat without the added bulk that makes your child susceptible to car seat-related injuries. Buckle Me Baby Coats front panel can be pulled to the side and out of the way allowing harnesses and straps to fit tightly and properly – keeping kids secure. It’s simple, it’s seamless and it keeps your child warm and safely buckled in the car. Check out all colors and sizes HERE.