You have a 4 year old who weighs 50 pounds. Maybe they are a bit too squirmy to sit correctly in a booster. Maybe you’d rather keep them in a 5-point harness, because your model has side impact protection and an extended weight limit of 50, 65 or even 80 pounds. The problem is that your auto manufacturer tells you that you can’t use LATCH beyond 40 pounds!
Well, you can use the seatbelt instead of the lower anchors, assuming you can get an acceptable installation with the seatbelt. Either method is just as safe if used correctly and if they result in a good fit. But what about the top tether? We’ve been told for years that top tethers make a big improvement in safety, but now we can’t use them on the older kids who need them the most?
Some guidance can be found at Safe Ride News on Page 8 and Pages 49-52 of their 2005 LATCH Manual. Ultimately, the parent has to choose between what is most likely the safest option and what is recommended by the auto manufacturer.
This is a real problem for parents that has no resolution in sight from auto makers or the NHTSA. For my kids, I’d use a top tether without hesitation. On the other hand, I have to officially tell other parents that they should not use a top tether above the limits set by the child restraint or auto manufacturer. It really should not be this way. This is a complete failing of the interaction among auto makers, child restraint makers and the government.
So, what would you do for your own child?