January 2, 2007

LATCH child safety seat system too confusing, says NHTSA study

Washington, D.C. – Too many parents are still not using the new safety LATCH (Lower Anchors and Tethers for Children) system properly because of a lack of education about the system and how to use it, according to a new study by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA).

“LATCH was supposed to simplify child safety seat installations for parents and this study shows that isn’t happening,” says Nicole Nason, NHTSA Administrator.

LATCH was created to standardize the way child safety seats are attached to vehicles without having to use a seat belt; it consists of two lower attachments and an upper tether on a child safety seat that anchor and connect with lower anchors and a top tether built into a vehicle’s back seat. The system became fully effective in September 2002, when NHTSA said that it hoped LATCH would make the seats easier for parents to use.

The survey found that 40 per cent of parents still rely on the vehicle’s seatbelts when installing the car seat. It also indicated that many parents are unaware of the system’s existence, or of the importance of the tethers when securing the seat to the vehicle. Only 55 per cent of parents use the top tether.

Nason says that she intends to bring the automobile manufacturers, the car seat manufacturers, and retailers and consumer activist together early in 2007 to discuss ways to make the system more efficient.

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