If you thought your child's car safety seat was complicated to install before, hold on to your tethers. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has issued a new rule that takes effect tomorrow requiring labels warning parents not to use the LATCH anchoring system (LATCH stands for Lower Anchors and Tethers for Children) once the child and the seat combined reach a weight of 65 pounds. Why? With both kids and car seats getting heavier, there is concern that the excess weight can cause the lower anchors to pull out of the floor during a crash, especially since close to a third of all parents neglect to use the top tether straps along with the LATCH system. This new 65-pound limit applies to the lower anchors only, however. You should continue to use the top tethers at all times, regardless of your child's size.
Could this be the beginning of the end for LATCH, designed a decade ago in an attempt to simplify safety seat installation? After all, you don't need to use it. Seat belt installation (again, when used in conjunction with the top tethers) is equally safe and increasingly easier as the feds pile on the rules. With the new weight warnings, parents may just give up on LATCH altogether, especially when they are being advised to keep children in child safety seats longer than ever. In fact, with today's car safety seats typically weighing an easy 25 pounds themselves, LATCH will cease to be usable once most kids graduate to front-facing seats. So why bother doing the added math when you are already counting your child's hours of screen time, sleep, nutritional intake, physical activity, college fund contributions, and more?
The sad fact remains that with or without LATCH, car seats are misused 90 percent of the time, and the new weight limits are certainly not going to improve those numbers. The safest bet for all parents is to visit a car seat inspection station and have your installation checked by someone trained. To find one in your area, go to seatcheck.org or call 1-866-SEAT-CHECK.