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May/June 2014 Issue

New safety seat labels will more
clearly list weight limits for children

When parents strap their children in car seats using lower anchors, they may be putting them at risk if they are unaware of weight limit restrictions, so the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has instituted new guidelines for labels to improve safety.

Specifically aimed at seats installed using the Lower Anchors and Tethers for Children (LATCH) system, which is in nearly every car manufactured since 2002, the revised weight-limit car seat labeling will include both the weight of the child and the car seat itself, unlike previous guidance that only accounted for the child’s weight.

The combined limit for the seat and child is 65 pounds. When the combination is more than that, parents should use a seat belt and tether when possible to install the seat to avoid overloading the vehicle anchorage system in a crash.

The label on all car seats manufactured after Feb. 27 will clearly define the limits for caregivers who may have unknowingly exceeded weight limits in the past by neglecting to factor in their children’s weight along with the increasingly heavy car seats, which can weigh as much as 35 pounds.

Indeed, a AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety survey of Child Passenger Safety Technicians (CPSTs), those certified to check and educate parents on the installation of car seats, found that 85 percent of CPSTs have encountered LATCH weight limits that exceed recommendations, and nearly one in five reported seeing this often.

“In the event of a crash, exceeded weight limits may cause the lower anchors and tether to perform improperly, leaving children vulnerable to injury or death,” warned AAA’s Director of Traffic Safety Research and Advocacy Jake Nelson. “Clear labeling is a step in the right direction, but standardization of equipment and proper education of caregivers remain the priority.”

When it was developed, the primary purpose of LATCH was to increase the likelihood that caregivers could achieve a correct car seat installation more often than when using the seat belt. Yet according to the AAA Foundation’s survey, more than half of CPSTs report caregivers are less likely to install a child seat correctly using LATCH.

Additional survey highlights include:

  • 80.5 percent of CPSTs report that LATCH installation errors are not obvious to caregivers.
  • Nearly one-third of CPSTs feel LATCH is more complicated than it needs to be.

For help in finding the right car seat for your child, visit www.safercar.gov, which includes age and size charts, as well as tips on installation.

installing seat
A AAA survey found that weight limits are exceeded during usage of many child safety seats. NHTSA photo

 

Spring into car maintenance to avoid breakdowns

During the Memorial Day holiday weekend, AAA estimates that it will rescue nearly a half million stranded motorists nationwide and about 9 million more during the rest of the summer.

To avoid being one of those people, AAA recommends motorists perform some routine maintenance. Taking care of your car now not only helps prevent the hassle of a breakdown but can cost far less than a major repair if upkeep is ignored. Four components to address include the following:

Tires: Surveys show that as many as one in five cars has at least one tire with incorrect pressure, which compromises the vehicle’s safety. Once a month, check the pressure when the tires are cold (driven less than one mile) and inflate to the manufacturer’s recommended pressure, found in the owner’s manual or on the door jamb.

Also, check tread depth by inserting a penny into a tread groove with Lincoln’s head toward the tire. If you can see his entire head, it’s time for new tires.

Oil: The lifeblood of your engine, oil reduces friction of internal engine parts. Periodically check the oil level to ensure it’s not low, and follow the manufacturer’s recommended intervals for replacement.

Battery: A battery’s life cycle is about five years, and harsh winters and summers can shorten that span. Check the battery cables to ensure they are securely attached to the terminals, and clean the terminals if there is corrosion. If your battery struggles, have it tested by the AAA Mobile Battery Service or at a AAA Approved Auto Repair shop. Details are at AAA.com/automotive.

Wiper blades: Windshield wipers are easy to overlook until you find yourself in a spring storm. Blades that are worn or rigid with age will not adequately remove rain that can obscure vision, and a failed wiper can scratch your windshield, necessitating a costly replacement. Streaking and chattering are clues that replacement is needed. And make sure the washer reservoir is full to help remove grime.

 

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