Parents of children over the age of three who are still in car seats are urged to inspect the seats to ensure that the seat is appropriate for their child and that it is properly installed. Many parents are unaware that the LATCH (Lower Anchors and Tethers for Children) system, which has been required in new cars since 2001, is not approved for use when the child and car seat have a combined weight of 65 lbs. Beginning in February 2014, The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) will require that car seat manufacturers explicitly instruct parents to use vehicle belts to install car seats when the child and car seat have a combined weight of 65 lbs. or more. Parents are encouraged to review their vehicle’s owners’ manual and car seat installation guide for additional information about vehicle and car seat specifications.
Although car seat restrictions vary by state, The American Association of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends that children under the age of 2 remain in a rear-facing car seat until they reach the age of 2 or until they outgrow the weight or height limits for their car seat. Children 2 years or older should use a forward-facing car seat with a harness for as long as possible. Older children who have outgrown weight or height limits of their forward-facing car seat, should use a booster seat until the vehicle seat belt fits properly, generally between the ages of 8 and 12 and once they are 4 feet 9 inches in height.
Parents are also reminded to check the car seat’s height and weight limits and expiration date. Most car seats have the manufacture date and/or expiration date imprinted on the shell of the seat. A general rule is that the car seat expires six years from the date of manufacture, however, many newer seats have expiration dates longer than 6 years.
Additional information about car seat safety can be found at http://www.nhtsa.gov/Safety/CPS/ or http://www.healthychildren.org/English/safety-prevention/on-the-go/Pages/Car-Safety-Seats-Information-for-Families.aspx