Car seat makers and legislators have been working to make improvements. One of the biggest in recent years: Almost all cars and safety seats made since September 2002 must have the LATCH (Lower Anchors and Tethers for Children) system. Built-in anchors on the backseat make installation easier by eliminating use of seat belts, and upper tethers help secure the seat to the car.
More recently, the federal government set new standards requiring infant seats to protect babies up to 22 pounds. The goal: to keep little ones rear-facing—the safest way for them to ride—longer. With a similar objective, Graco introduced its Infant SafeSeat™, for babies up to 30 pounds, in early 2006. The weight limit for rear-facing use of many convertible seats also has been increased to 30 or 35 pounds.
Also new on select car seats are layers of energy-absorbing EPS foam for added protection, especially in side- impact crashes. “Britax has been an innovator on that front, and other manufacturers are jumping on board,” says Denise Fields, co-author of Baby Bargains: Secrets to Saving 20% to 50% on Baby Furniture, Equipment, Clothes, Toys, Maternity Wear and Much, Much More! (Windsor Peak Press, 2005). Late last year, Britax released an energy- absorbing Rip-Stitch tether to minimize G-force effects on a child in an accident.