Updated Policy on LATCH Use For Securing Car Seats

Since 2001, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has required that car manufacturers comply with Lower Anchors and Tethers for Children (LATCH), a system that relies upon a universal anchor system to which car seat tethers can be attached. However, as of 2014, the NHTSA will be requiring child seat manufacturers to inform parents NOT to use the lower LATCH anchors if the combined weight of seat and child is more than 65 pounds, on the grounds that the anchors could fail in the event of a car accident.

The problem, according to the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers, is that the original legislation did not take the weight of a car seat into account when stipulating strength limits for LATCH anchors, which are consequently required to be tested to only 65 pounds. Combined with the weight of a seat, however — one of which weighs an incredible 33 pounds — a child as light as 32 pounds could be unsafe in a LATCH-tethered seat.

While the LATCH system is a convenient way to tether a car seat in a vehicle, a LATCH-secured child seat is no safer than one properly secured using the vehicle’s seat belts. Given the potential for LATCH failure, then, parents who need to secure a seat-plus-child combination weighing 65 pounds or more should use the vehicle’s seat belts per the car seat manufacturer-provided instructions.

There’s been increasing attention paid to car seats for larger and heavier children as a result of the American Academy of Pediatrics’ (AAP) recent car seat policy changes. The current recommendations include the following (Durbin et al):

  •  Children should ride in a rear-facing car seat until age 2 or until reaching the maximum height/weight allowed by the seat manufacturer for rear-facing travel
  • Children 2 and older should ride in a forward-facing car seat with a harness until reaching the maximum height/weight allowed by the seat manufacturer
  • Children who have outgrown forward-facing seats with harnesses should ride in a belt-positioning booster until they are at least 4′ 9″ in height (8-12 years of age)
  • Children younger than 13 should ride in the vehicle’s rear seat at all times

This post contains a discussion of some of the research that supports the AAP’s policy changes.

 

Science Bottom Line:* If the combined weight of your child and your child’s car seat is 65 pounds or more, secure the seat using the vehicle’s seat belts; do NOT use the lower LATCH anchors.

 

Do you use the LATCH anchors, or do you prefer to secure your child’s seat with the vehicle seat belt?

 

References:

Durbin et al. Child passenger safety. Pediatrics. 2011 Apr;127(4):e1050-66. Epub 2011 Mar 21.

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3 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Chelsie
    Jun 18, 2012 @ 13:40:57

    I have the Diono Radian RXT and theirs is the only latch system to go up to 80 lbs. Now, the seat weighs 24 lbs and my son weighs a little over 38lbs. Should I still refrain from using the latch system once he hits over 65 lbs, even though their latch system holds up to 80lbs? thanks in advance!

    Reply

    • SquintMom
      Jun 19, 2012 @ 07:57:01

      With the caveat that your best source of information is going to be the vehicle manufacturer, I’d go ahead and use latch up to 80 pounds. If they’re saying their latch system is secure up to that weight, they clearly have testing results to show it’s safe.

      Reply

  2. BeckyA
    Jun 19, 2012 @ 19:19:52

    I went to our local sheriffs station for help/ training installing my sons carseat four years ago. His personal opinion was that using the cars built in restraint system was safer than using latch- for a variety of reasons that I don’t remember. We decided that it’s not that inconvenient to install the old fashioned way, and have been doing so ever since. He also informed us that an alarmingly high percentage of car seats are improperly installed. And that all car seats if properly installed are equally safe.

    Reply

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