Child Safety Seat Guidelines Change in Feb. 2014

Changes in national child safety seat guidelines for drivers will take effect on Thursday, Feb. 27, 2014. The Lower Anchors and Tethers for Children (LATCH) system requirements for forward-facing child safety seats tethered to car seats has been updated.

The current design mandated by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has manufacturers installing two bottom and one top anchor point. In front-facing car seats where the combined weight of the child and the seat are more than 65 pounds, the bottom tethers will soon be eliminated, and parents will be required to strap in the car seat with a safety belt instead. The guidelines currently apply to children 65 pounds or more, not including the seat’s weight. The issue is that seats made for kids three years and older can’t always handle the weight, and may fail in a crash.

In Texas, kids eight years old or younger and those under four feet, nine inches tall are required to sit in a child safety seat in a vehicle. Rear-facing seats for children under one year, 35 pounds or both are recommended by the Texas Department of Transportation to ensure maximum safety. Kids from one to four years and up to 40 pounds can use a forward-facing safety seat.

Children over four must continue to use a safety seat until they are more than 40 pounds, but may use a booster seat until they are eight. Children in this group who are not using a booster seat will be affected by the new federal guidelines.

Safety belts can sometimes be uncomfortable for kids who are tall enough or old enough to sit with a seatbelt only. Try moving children closer to the center of the seat, towards the buckle, to prevent the shoulder harness from rubbing their necks.

It’s important for parents and guardians to make sure that their car seats, safety seats and seatbelts conform to state and federal guidelines designed to keep kids safe. Airbags in vehicles are designed to protect adults and, when deployed in an accident, can harm children. Failure to follow Texas child restraint laws carries a traffic ticket with a $25 fine for the first offense. After that, fines are up to $250 for each violation.

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