LATCH Then and Now


Costco Triad

It is a sad moment.  My trusty Cosco Triad is finally going to the carseat graveyard.  It was returned to me last week by a friend who borrowed it years ago.  I had forgotten all about it.  Though it served 3 kids very well in its day, at 8 years old it is beyond its useable lifetime, so it is headed to the junk heap.  The sentiment reminded me of this video…  Back in 1999, I became involved in Child Passenger Safety when I couldn’t get a Century Smartmove to fit in a Saturn SL2 sedan.  If an engineer couldn’t do it, who could?  (Well, turns out those happened to be among the most difficult carseat and vehicle combinations at the time but I didn’t know that!).  It didn’t seem like it should be rocket science, but in some cases it certainly is.  There was hope, though- a new system called LATCH was coming.  In late 2000, I bought one of the first LATCH carseats on the market, a souped-up Cosco Touriva called the Triad.  Despite the cumbersome 2-ring tether adjuster, it installed quite nicely in my 2001 Honda Odyssey, also equipped with LATCH.  Less than a year later, I made a webpage (that’s a link to the archived version that appeared in spring/summer 2001) to help other parents learn as much as I did.

I soon became a LATCH advocate, hoping someday the new system would solve all the installation worries inherent to child seats.  That day is still a long way off!  Sure, for many seats in many vehicles, LATCH really is easier.  In particular, some models like the Chicco Keyfit, SafeGuard Child Seat and Clek Olli were designed with LATCH in mind and really are a snap to install in most cases.  Unfortunately, LATCH was implemented without much foresight.  The regulations left a lot of freedom to manufacturers of child seats and vehicles and that resulted in a lot of incompatibilities.  Even worse, they completely neglected the issue of seats that accommodate kids over 40 pounds.  Plus, the manuals are often confusing or lacking information, especially when it comes to using LATCH in the center position in vehicles that lack a separate pair of anchors dedicated to that middle seat.

Though these issues have been known for over 5 years, progress seems to have stalled on any changes.  Every year we hear the same thing at conferences.  Some manufacturers recognize the problems and say they are “looking into it”.  Others defer to the NHTSA for updated regulations.  Some claim industry working groups are still hard at work on finding solutions.  Still others send a new representative each year who appears to be surprised when the problems are mentioned, as if that’s the first they’d heard of the issue.  Whatever the excuse, it’s hard to imagine that anything will be resolved anytime soon.

I have to wonder if the situation is better in Europe, where the standards are a little different.  There, the governments didn’t allow manufacturers to kludge flexible LATCH into old designs.  Instead, they required rigid LATCH seats, as was the intention of the original ISOFIX concept.  (Rigid LATCH seats have appeared in the USA and they are usually extremely easy to use and very secure when installed.  Even so, they have still not really caught on with the public that generally isn’t aware of the difference.)

So, it doesn’t look like I will be out of a CPS “job” for many years.  When I’m out of business, the manufacturers have finally done their jobs.  Today, I’m just a little bit sad.  The Triad I bought on sale at K-mart in 2000 is now stripped bare so no one will re-use it.  It certainly wasn’t among my favorite models, but it was a first in regard to LATCH.  The garbage man hauled it away a little while ago.  Sniff.

Carseat Scrap Heap


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