Originally created 10/26/02

Courses offer training on car-seat installation



It's no wonder some parents have difficulty strapping their children into car seats.

The technicians who teach proper seat installation need four days of training to learn the secrets.

But local instructors say the new LATCH system will end the confusion of different car seat designs and simplify the installation process.

As of Sept. 1, all new vehicles and child safety seats are required by federal law to have LATCH attachments designed to make them fit together like a key in a lock.

"It secures the seat to the vehicle without having to use the safety belt. They just solve incompatibility issues," said Sylvia Thompson, a child passenger safety instructor for the University of Georgia.

This week, a dozen certified child passenger safety technicians met at the Richmond County Health Department to become recertified and to discuss ways to educate people on the new LATCH system.

The instructors are available to the public for help in learning proper ways to install seats. Anyone interested in reaching a locally certified technician can get contact information on the Internet at www.nhsta.org or www.seatcheck.org.

"They can call us, and we will be happy to meet them somewhere," said child passenger safety technician Kevin Bowles of Augusta.

Local officials say the new law that mandates the LATCH system can't prevent all child seat mistakes. Parents still need to research which seat is best for their child, make sure the seat fits tightly in the vehicle and buckle the child in properly.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration estimates the new system could prevent 36 to 50 deaths and almost 3,000 injuries annually. "We say this will make it easier, not easy," NHTSA spokesman Sandy Sinclair said.

The agency says 80 percent of car seats are incorrectly installed, leading to 68 child deaths and 874 injuries each year. LATCH is designed to make it easier to fit the child seat tightly in the vehicle.

As of Sept. 1, every vehicle must be made with 6-millimeter bars, or anchors, where the cushions meet in the back seat, and every child seat must be built with clips that connect to the anchors for a secure fit. The second feature of LATCH is a tether behind the back seat that connects to a strap on top of the child seat.

The tethers, which have been required for two years, are designed to keep the child from whipping forward during an accident.

The LATCH system works only with forward- and rear-facing child seats. It's not used with booster seats for children ages 4 to 8.

NHTSA officials stress that old seats securely installed with seat belts work just as well as those with LATCH.

Although many vehicles already have the LATCH system, it has not been available in many car seats until recently, partly because it is more expensive. Car seats with a rigid metal attachment can add $34 to $44 to the cost, while those with the more common flexible strap connectors cost $10 to $21 more, according to NHTSA.

Some car seat manufacturers sell retrofit kits averaging $25 that allow the seat to work with the vehicle's LATCH system, but they are not necessary if a seat is tightly secured with a seat belt.

Associated Press reports were used in this article.

INSPECTION SITES

Child safety seat inspection stations (please call the number listed for times and schedules):

AUGUSTA:

University of Georgia Occupant Safety Program

602 Greene St.

Phone: (706) 821-2349

Sylvia Thompson

Walton Rehabilitation Hospital

1355 Independence Dr.

Phone: (706) 926-5846

Toni Corkrin

Richmond County Health Department

3496 Wrightsboro Road

Phone: (706) 667-4241

Cheryl Turner

AIKEN:

Tri-Development Center

1016 Vaucluse Road

Phone: (803) 642-1074

Jones Bowen

Reach Greg Rickabaugh at (706) 828-3851 or greg.rickabaugh@augustachronicle.com.