Safety Archive

Tether Anchor Weight Limits – Honda, Acura, Mercedes & Ferrari aren’t competitive in one important area of child occupant safety


First and foremost, I’d like to say that we’ve been heaping a lot of well-deserved praise on Honda lately. Darren and I have both had the pleasure of reviewing and reporting on the new 2011 Odyssey.  Additionally, there was the recent release of stellar crash test results for this newest generation Ody from NHTSA & the IIHS which prompted yet another blog to sing the praises of a job well done by Honda.  Even here on the homefront, we have a new-to-us 2006 Honda Pilot sitting in the driveway and overall I’m very impressed and happy with our new vehicle. 

However, with that said, there is one area of child occupant protection where Honda and their luxury brand, Acura, really fall short.  I’m talking about tether anchor weight limits.  To be fair, it’s not just Honda & Acura that have failed to compete in this category – Mercedes Benz & Ferrari also state the same low, uber-conservative 40 lb limit for their lower anchors and top tether anchors.  But it’s not a stretch to assume that there are far more children in the US riding around in the backseat of Honda vehicles than in all the others (Acura, MB & Ferrari) combined.  That’s why it’s so important for us, as advocates for child passenger safety, to attempt to bring some much-needed attention to this issue.  We are continually frustrated in our efforts to practice and promote best-practice recommendations for child occupant protection because our efforts are hampered by ridiculously low tether anchor weight limits. 

For the record, I’m specifically referring to the numbers provided by the vehicle manufacturers themselves to the editors and researchers of The LATCH Manual, published by Safe Ride News.  For those who are not familiar with The LATCH Manual – it’s considered the premier reference resource used by CPS practioners for obtaining accurate and comprehensive information on all things relating to the LATCH system.  Unfortunately, in the current 2011 Edition of LATCH Manual, Honda continues to list 40 lbs as the maximum child weight for using lower anchors and top tether anchor in their vehicles.  

In reality, the stated 40 lbs weight limit on the lower anchors isn’t a huge problem because there’s a simple and more-than-adequate alternative to using the lower anchors to secure a CR – it’s the old standby, the vehicle’s seatbelt!  However, in the vast majority of situations there is no simple alternative to reducing head excursion in a crash without using the vehicle’s top tether anchor.  Of course, this is only a dilemma if your child weighs more than 40 lbs and rides in a Honda/Acura/Mercedes or Ferrari (we should all be lucky enough to have this problem!) in a CR with a harness rated beyond 40 lbs.  But considering how many kids over 40 lbs are currently riding in higher-weight harnessed seats, this is an enormous problem that deserves immediate attention. 


In comparison to the 40 lb limits stated by Honda, Acura, Mercedes & Ferrari – most other vehicle manufacturers either state higher weight limits or simply defer to the Child Restraint instructions for guidance on the issue of when to use (and when to discontinue usage) of lower anchors and/or top tether anchors.  Forward-facing CRs should be used in the manner that they were designed and tested to be used – which in most cases includes the usage of the top tether strap if a tether anchor is available.   

To summarize, it’s not like Honda uses subpar tether anchor hardware compared to Ford, Nissan, Toyota or Volvo (who all defer to the CR instructions for TA usage).  All lower and top tether anchors have to meet the same federal standards mandated in FMVSS 225.  Why the engineers at Honda/Acura, Mercedes & Ferrari have greater liability concerns and/or less faith in the anchor hardware is a mystery to those of us who are not privy to their water cooler discussions.   And I’m not trying to over-simplify the issues – I just don’t understand what they’re thinking.  These low, arbitrary tether anchor weight limits are potentially putting children at risk for head injuries due to increased head excursion in a crash if the tether strap on the CR isn’t used.  These limits also tie the hands of CPS Technicians and Instructors as they attempt to promote and educate parents & caregivers on best practice recommendations for child passenger safety.  

Hopefully, Honda (and all vehicle manufacturers) will quickly adopt weight limits consistent with today’s child restraint systems rated to 65 or even 80 pounds.  At the very least, they could defer to the child safety seat manufacturer for guidance on limits.  Providing no such guidance, as is the case with many Honda owners manuals, places both parents and technicians in a very confusing situation regarding an important safety issue.

Guest Blog: Burning Down the House


Earlier this week I inadvertently created a plume of green toxic smoke in my kitchen. As fun and interesting as that sounds, it’s not actually the topic of this post. It did, however, lead someone to remind me about the time I left carrots cooking on the stove while I ran some errands. I realized that we, understandably, spend a lot of time talking about the number-one killer of children (car accidents), so why not also take a minute to talk about the number-one cause of residential fires (unattended cooking)?

Now of course I didn’t intend to leave my carrots on the stove. I had planned on running to the craft store and then out to dinner, so I put some carrots on the stove to boil for my one-year-old to chomp on at the restaurant. I set the timer and went to do some other things.

The Move to Backless


Sometimes I wish I was just an average parent, happily putting my kid in a backless booster straight out of a convertible seat and going about my business.  But I’m not.  I’m a Child Passenger Safety Technician Instructor and have been in the field for 10 years this spring.  I like to analyze the decisions I make for my kids and make sure I’m making the safest decisions.  Why?  Why do I overanalyze these decisions?  I’ve always prided myself on giving others the same advice I follow myself.  So why am I so uncomfortable following this advice I’m giving myself?

An Open Letter to the FAA


Dear Federal Aviation Administration:

A few weeks ago, I wrote a blog post here about your policies regarding car seat use on planes. Shortly thereafter (purely through coincidence), the National Transportation Safety Board held a forum on Child Passenger Safety in the Air and in Automobiles, during which the NTSB recommended that children under 2 use carseats on planes.

Of course, FAA, this isn’t the first time you’ve heard this recommendation. The NTSB actually requested back in August that you make it a requirement that every passenger –not just those over 2–have a ticket and a seat. In fact, the NTSB has made that request numerous times over the past 20 years, but you have always nixed the idea.

The justification you give is that if parents can’t afford to buy a ticket for Little Billy, they will be forced to drive instead, therefore increasing the child’s risk of injury or death since car travel is so much more dangerous than air travel.

Okay, FAA, in a way you have a point. Vehicle collisions are, after all, the leading cause of accidental death to children, while the number of people killed each year on commercial airlines is miniscule. So why, then, does the FAA require seatbelts for adults?

Let’s examine your argument about people deciding to drive instead of fly.

Sometimes that might be the case. If I want to go to Phoenix from my home in Southern California, I could fly there in an hour or drive there in about eight (six if I don’t stop, but remember, we’re traveling with kids). Either way I could be there by the afternoon if I left early in the morning.

But let’s say I need to get from Miami to Seattle. I could fly there in one day, but driving would take a week. (Google says 54 hours, but again, if you travel with kids you need to make stops. Plus I like sleeping in actual beds.) So that’s two weeks roundtrip. When you add up time off work just to get there and back, plus lodging, gas, and lots of meals along the way, flying would likely be the cheaper and much faster option.

The point is that, yes, some people will choose to drive instead of fly when that’s a realistic option, but many times it’s not.

Also, FAA, if you’re so concerned about children’s safety in cars, you might want to think about what happens to the car seats that parents check in so they can hold Little Tabitha on their laps. Have you seen the way baggage handlers treat luggage? Do you know how many times I’ve heard complaints about car seats being damaged by airlines? A broken or lost seat isn’t going to do much good when the kid gets to his destination. Requiring parents to take the seat onboard insures against loss and damage.

You know what else? Having kids is expensive! There are a lot of costs we just can’t avoid, and if having to buy a ticket for the baby keeps parents from flying, they’ll have to forgo the trip. There are people who can’t or won’t buy proper child restraints for their own cars but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t have laws saying that they must.

FAA, let’s be honest with each other. Your concern for children’s safety in cars is quite benevolent, but I don’t believe for a second that’s your true interest. In fact, I bet you’re in favor of requiring babies to have tickets but feel pressure from the airlines who could lose money if that were the case. If buying a ticket for Baby forces a family to drive, that means that Mom and Dad don’t buy tickets either, and the airline has just lost out on their fares, too.

Don’t be too concerned about the airlines, though. With the way they nickle-and-dime us these days, I’m sure they’ll be able to make up for those couple tickets by selling the seats to someone else at an inflated price and jacking up the checked-bag fee, plus charging $10 to borrow a “blanket.” Really, the airlines will be fine.

The airlines could also build up some goodwill among families by doing a couple pretty simple things, like letting people with car seats preboard. I know their TitaniumAmbassadorFirstPassClub members might not like having to share the plane with a couple of snotty kids for five minutes before the rest of the sardines are packed in, but everyone would be much happier in the end. And it would really help if airline employees were familiar with the FAA’s car seat regulations. Maybe you could send them a memo.

FAA, I don’t mean to sound ungrateful. Your policies regarding traveling with car seats are great, and much better than those of most other countries. But it’s time to set aside the pressure from airlines and do what you’re charged with doing. Your Mission Statement claims, “Safety is our passion. We work so all air and space travelers arrive safely at their destinations.” Start including infants and toddlers in that statement, FAA. If my laptop needs to be secure during takeoff and landing, my child should be, too.


A Safety-Conscious Mom