Child Safety Seats Get Safer
The newest breed of seating systems keeps kid passengers more secure and makes installation a snap
By Jayne O'Donnell
For a new mom with just one infant, I take more than my share of child safety seats in and out of cars. That's because I test drive at least one new car or truck every week, and little Cate almost always comes along for the ride.
So it stands to reason that I'm excited about the new child seating system known as "LATCH" (short for Lower Anchors and Tethers for Children). LATCH has two components: a top-tether anchor for use with forward-facing seats and easy-lock lower anchor points for use with all child safety seats. LATCH is a blessing for anyone who's ever struggled with car seat belts to install a child safety seat. (And if you're really getting the child seat snug enough, you're doing some wrestling.) This new system eliminates the need to even touch the car's belts when you're putting in a child seat. The lower anchor portion of the LATCH system will be required in all new cars, minivans, and light trucks beginning September 1, 2002. But it has already shown up in many 2001 cars and trucks, including the Ford Escape sport-utility vehicle, General Motors' minivans, the Nissan Frontier pickup truck, the Infiniti G20 sedan, and Chrysler's redesigned minivans.
How LATCH Works
(Some older safety seats can also be fitted with the tether, so contact the manufacturer.)
Room for Improvement
Second complaint: On most cars I've tested with LATCH, it's much easier to hook the seats in than to unhook them. This should be less of a problem when child-seat makers begin selling special LATCH seats with hard lower attachment points instead of standard seats with LATCH mini-belts. Then again, most people won't be taking their child safety seats in and out of cars as often as I do.
ClubMom's AutoPro, Jayne O'Donnell, is a Washington, D.C.-based reporter (and new mom!) whose automotive expertise and investigative reporting skills have helped break some of the biggest auto-safety stories of the past several years.
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