LATCH stands for Lower Anchors and Tethers for CHildren. It’s the next generation of child safety.
It’s a pair of metal anchors located in the seat bight, plus a top tether anchor located somewhere behind the vehicle seat. Combined, these anchors were to make installation of carseats much easier than using seatbelts. With me so far?
Problem is, at least in the USA, we made a lot of concessions to automobile and child restraint manufacturers when the system was implemented. For example, the anchors are often hard to find or access. Also, rigid LATCH isn’t required, as it is with ISOFIX in Europe. Center and third row seating positions may not have anchors at all. High weight limit seats are not considered. This last issue has become a big problem, due to the rapid proliferation in carseats with 5-point harnesses now rated above 40 pounds in the USA and *Canada.
The rules, many of which are unwritten for the typical parent, are so absolutely crazy that certified child passenger safety technicians need a 200-page reference manual to help understand it. The average parent or caregiver? They don’t even know about the rules or manual in the first place! Thus, misuse happens. It’s no wonder that parents who do know about it are so confused, they simply choose not to deal with it.
Let me explain. No, there is too much. Let me sum up: In 2014, new federal standards, subject to petitions of the final rule, will require carseats to have another label. This label will limit the use of lower anchors to a maximum weight for a child. This child’s weight limit printed on each carseat, plus the weight of the carseat, must be 65 pounds combined, or less. Thus, for any child seat that weighs over 25 pounds, it cannot be used with the lower anchors once the child is above 40 pounds (or less). Clear as mud?
Adding to the confusion, these new federal requirements do not directly affect top tether anchors, the other component of LATCH. Nonetheless, many automobile manufacturers are still currently limiting top tether anchor use to the same combined 65-pound [child plus carseat] weight, even when a seatbelt is used for installation. A few still limit use to a 40- or 48-pound child weight. That means that if you own any of these automobile makes (and you may need that 200-page manual to know which ones!), you should no longer use the top tether above this limit. Still following me?
Of course, it is the tall and heavy kids that need top tethers the most in order to reduce head excursion, the source of severe head injury risk! So, this is a major conflict in what we know about crash dynamics and something that could put older kids at risk. All this leads to the following questions: