Child Safety Seats – LATCH It Right!

Hildebrand & Wilson, LLP June 18, 2015

Proper child restraint in motor vehicles is critically important in preventing injury – and it is the law in the state of Texas. Unfortunately, attorneys who handle auto accidents commonly see unrestrained or improperly restrained young children injured or killed in car accidents, often resulting from the incorrect use of child car seats and safety belts. The lawyers who help clients involved in car accidents see injury circumstances when such injuries could have been prevented if parents or caregivers understood the correct way to restrain children in vehicles. Even with the addition of required safety equipment such as LATCH technology, these safety measures do not provide complete protection for young passengers when they are not used correctly.

Auto Accidents and Child Passengers

According to recently compiled data from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), auto accidents are a leading cause of death for children between the ages of 4 and 11.1 Centers for Disease Control (CDC) studies conclude that the leading cause of death for children between the ages of 5 and 14 and the second leading cause of death for children between 1 and 4 years of age is unintentional death involving a motor vehicle.2 Most of the deaths involving children riding as passengers in vehicles occurred due to the lack of restraint, or improper restraint. In 2011, 650 children died in car crashes; one-third of those children were unrestrained,3 and up to one-fourth were believed to have been incorrectly restrained.4

The LATCH System

Lower Anchors and Tethers for Children Restraint System or LATCH is safety technology designed to standardize safety in vehicles and child car seats; new cars manufactured since September 1, 2002 are required to include this system.5 Auto accident lawyers say this system does provide the required protection to children of all ages when properly used. The LATCH system with its included safety belts and harnesses is to be used instead of regular, adult seat belts in every motor vehicle. This system can reduce auto accident-related infant fatalities by over 70 percent and toddler fatalities by over 50 percent when correctly installed.1

Problems with LATCH

Attorneys who handle accident cases have noted that since the LATCH system was initiated nearly 13 years ago, the biggest problem with the system continues to be a lack of understanding about the system and how it was designed to be used. According to Child Passenger Safety technicians who designed the LATCH system and continue to study its use and misuse, nearly 90 percent of child car seats are incorrectly attached using the LATCH system. This greatly reduces the planned effectiveness of the LATCH system.

Parents must understand that not every child car seat fits every vehicle; this is the main reason why many seats are incorrectly attached. Safety experts and auto accident attorneys advise it is essential to purchase a seat that fits the vehicle where it will be used and follow the installation manual instructions. A correctly attached car seat does not require the car’s adult seat belts; using those belts increases the chance of injury. Continued expert study is working to improve the LATCH system; however, maximum benefit can only be obtained through parent education on proper usage.

Safety organizations encourage parents and caregivers to learn more about the correct use of the LATCH system on the NTSA LATCH system website. Diligent safety measures can save more young passenger lives. If you are the parents of a child injured in auto accidents, seek out the services of lawyers experienced in child injury cases about the circumstances of your accident.