The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has announced it is changing the rules regarding how child car seats are attached to cars, affecting mostly older toddlers and children over age 3. The system known as LATCH (Lower Anchors and Tethers for Children), which has become standard in many cars and which makes car seats easier to install, cannot be guaranteed to be safe if the car seat and child's combined weight exceeds 65 pounds. USA Today has more:
Joseph Colella, one of five child-safety advocates who petitioned the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) to change the rule, says the anchor requirements are based on old child seats and outdated recommendations on how long kids should be in child seats.
The Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers sought the change in the rule because limits weren't factoring in how much seats weigh. Colella says carmakers aren't able to guarantee the safety of heavier kids given the strength of LATCH anchors. The alliance was not available for comment.
The advocates say the minimum strength requirements should be increased.
LATCH use and awareness are already low. A study last summer by the advocacy group Safe Kids Worldwide found child-seat checkpoint technicians were using the lower anchors to attach seats only about 30% of the time. And Safe Kids found just 30% of parents use the top tether straps, which prevent head injuries in crashes.
"Disconnecting tethers when their use is needed ... could lead to a tragedy," says Stephanie Tombrello of advocacy group SafetyBeltSafe, one of the petitioners.
The American Academy of Pediatrics' recommendation that children use car seats until age 8 has apparently led to manufacturers making different, sometimes heavier seats.
Image: Baby in a car seat, via Shutterstock.