I’m just thinking out loud and I don’t have any answers so bear with me here, okay?
For a long time I’ve wondered what the big deal is with non-standard LATCH spacing? Why are many CR manufacturers and vehicle manufacturers against it while others have no problem allowing it? Is it simply a matter of them not testing this type of installation? Are there potential problems with these types of LATCH installations that I’m just not considering? Will some CRs perform sub-optimally because they’ve been installed in this manner? And most importantly – are children actually at risk because their parents have installed the CR with LATCH in this manner in situations where it isn’t technically allowed?
For the record, I’m talking only about borrowing the inboard anchors from two designated outboard LATCH pairs – no other misuse. CR is tight, lower anchor connectors are attached properly, lower anchors have not been doubled-up with another CR, tether strap is attached correctly (if CR is forward-facing), etc. You get the picture. So, assuming everything else is fine – what’s the big deal if the spacing between lower LATCH anchors is the standard 280 mm or something else (non-standard) like 320 mm or 400 mm?
I get that the LATCH system (including the spacing between anchors) was standardized for a reason. However, once NHTSA caved to the wishes of the auto and child seat industry and allowed flexible attachments on carseats (not to mention little regulation on how anchors were designed or positioned in vehicles) this set the stage for most of the LATCH-related misuse that we see. But should using non-standard LATCH spacing really be considered a misuse? Why can’t manufacturers come to a consensus on this issue?
Some will undoubtedly argue that the CRs may not, or have not, been tested using non-standard spacing. Okay… so what? I seriously doubt that either SafeGuard or Honda have tested a SafeGuard Go in center rear position of a 2000 Accord using the lap/shoulder belt and top tether. Does that mean I should be concerned about my child who is riding in this situation in DH’s car? Of course not. As long as the CR is installed tightly and correctly and is used appropriately then it’s all good, right? So why don’t we apply the same criteria to all center LATCH installs? Why do we care about the spacing as long as the CR is installed tightly and doesn’t move more than 1″ from side-to-side and front-to-back?
I’m not going to bother to read through FMVSS 213 trying to find info on the exact spacing of the seatbelt anchors but I’m fairly certain the spacing on that bench seat is regulated. Does that mean I need to worry if the spacing between my seatbelt anchors in my vehicle is more or less than the spacing on that bench seat? Seems silly when you think of it that way, doesn’t it?