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.
I just got off the phone with Honda Canada. Although there is no LATCH weight limit in our 2012 Odyssey manual they’ve told me that the child seat’s ratings are to be used. Although the rigid LATCH seems convenient I don’t think it holds the child seat in the vehicle seat as securely as a belted LATCH. Do the ratings mentioned in the article refer to solid LATCH only or LATCH in general?
You would think the manufactures and governmnet would release more info to the public concerning the Anchor & Teathers weight ratings….
Umm, pretty easy to answer. What does a manufacture have to gain by giving more sue happy American’s information invovling children, seatbelts, car seats, and cars… Nothing… It is not required of the manufaturers by the government, YET. It’s called liability. The cars and anchors are safe, the drivers is dangerous.
Helpful info…. Check your tire pressure – #1 cause of highway tire blowouts… a front tire blowout at highway speeds = major danager. Try staying off your phone while driving, distracted drivers and texting kills. Use turn signals even when you dont have to. New and Newer vehicles are amazingly safe, check the crash stats…number of accidents vs. serious injury vs. death.
Just saying the anchors and teathers are not going to hurt your valuable cargo, the driver can. I can see the comments now, what about the other drivers on the road … worry about what you can control, your car and stay safe.
It is not required of the manufaturers by the government, YET. Make some noise and see if you can get it mandated
Chris, take your helpful info tip about checking tire pressure. Where do you set it? Well, it’s listed in the owner’s manual, on a sticker inside the door and on the tire. Presumably, they list this information to reduce liability from people over-inflating the tires. So why give information on tires, but not on LATCH anchors? If there really is a danger involved in using these anchors beyond the limits, then they would reduce their liability by clearly posting those limits and issuing recall notices to inform consumers of the danger. Simply leaving it all a secret opens them up to a lot more liability, in the same way it opens up certified technicians to liability.
I’m a tech with a LATCH manual. We have a Honda Odyssey. We have a 45 lb. 4-year-old daughter who is not nearly ready to use a booster properly, and is too tall to use most of the harnessed seats we own (or, indeed, on the market) so she is in the rather massive (but wonderful) Safeguard Child Seat. It is very bulky, and I don’t feel it’s safe to use it untethered. So I have no hesitation or guilt in my parental decision to use it over the (NOT EVEN IN THE MANUAL) limit on the tether (it’s installed with the seatbelt; there aren’t lower anchors back there anyway, but I’m far more hesitant to go over even unpublished LA limits since they aren’t a safety benefit, only a convenience.) But I kind of think it stinks that Honda forces me into a parental decision (one which the average parent wouldn’t have or be aware of) when I truly believe it’s unnecessary- all the evidence I’m aware of shows that TAs are unlikely to fail and, even if they DO fail, are unlikely to hurt any occupants and are likely to provide a safety benefit.
This article makes it sound like people stop using the top tether at 40#? Acura/Honda manuals do NOT say to do this. In fact, my manual says “Since a tether can provide additional security to the lap/shoulder belt installation, we recommend using a tether whenever one is required or available.” Here in Canada, a tether is required for any FF harnessed seat. I know in the U.S. a tether is required for specific seats after a certain weight limit. And even if they weren’t required, they are “available” and thus is recommended to use as per my manual.
The only way a consumer would know this 40# limit existed is if they are a tech and have heard of the LATCH manual or have been to a tech with the LATCH manual. (sure you might get someone who’s read about a LATCH limit on the internet and calls Honda Canada to ask, but most of the CSR’s don’t actually have this info so the consumer is still unlikely to easily find this out). Do techs with LATCH manuals in the U.S. advise people to stop using the top tether after 40#? If so, why?
I also wanted to comment on this quote from the article, “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.” The 40# limits shouldn’t be putting kids at risk. If the consumer follows their manual, it recommends the use of the top tether. The fact that tethers aren’t required in the U.S. puts children at a bigger risk than any weight limits on top tethers (since most parents are completely unaware this limit even exists). I understand the need for it in older vehicles or situations where all top tethers are already in use, but it also leads many, many parents to believe that the seat is fine without the top tether and so they simply don’t use it. Parents are more likely to not use the top tether at all than they are to get info from a LATCH manual and stop using the top tether at 40#.
Jools- I was told by a Honda representative a few years ago that the reason they have no stated limits in the manuals is because they officially defer to the child seat manfacturer. Even so, when providing a limit for techs, they stated 40 pounds to avoid concerns over future products that may have very high capacities. This just compounds the issue. It is so confusing for a parent in many cases, there is simply no way for them to know when they should or should not use a safety feature that is attached to the product. Like Aunt83ME02 said, if there is such a concern, why not put it clearly in the manual and on labels attached to tethers and tether anchors? If the parent can’t use the feature, at the very least, make it easy for the parent to find the information regarding when and why they can’t use it!
I’m waiting and waiting for a recall or consumer advisory for my 2003 Odyssey. There’s nothing in the manual about top tether (or lower anchor) weight limits, so in the absence of Honda’s input, I’ll feel confident following the limits my carseat has given me: 40 pounds on the lower anchors, and always use the top tether.
This issue frustrates me as well. First of all, if manufacturers were so concerned with children weighing more than 40/48lbs using the lower anchors and top tethers above their maximum weight rating, don’t you think it would be listed somewhere OTHER than in the owners manual (and many do not even give the information). I would think if the risk/liability was so high, I would have warning labels right by the tether anchor and labels on the seat backs by the LATCH anchors. If no maximum is listed, I would go with what my car seat said. Now, since I am a technician I have access to the LATCH manual, but not even every technician owns a manual! First off, I should be so lucky to have someone come to a check with a child over 40lbs in a harnessed car seat! That being said, I will tell parents that I cannot advise them to go against the manufacturer’s instructions, I will explain what role the tether plays and that even though a tether might “fail” it would have done it’s job at reducing head excursion. I would mention that we don’t know what would happen if it were to fail (metal parts flying?). I would tell them that they must make the choice that they are comfortable with. I guess unfortunately I have only dealt with this situation in my vehicles or the vehicles of my immediate family members (who have pretty much let me make their car seat decisions for them since I got certified at the age of 18!). My husband and I recently purchased a 2008 Honda Civic, although I was annoyed with the 40lb limits for LATCH and no center LATCH usage. We don’t have kids yet but for my nieces/nephews I will make the personal choice to keep my seats tethered beyond 40lbs (no one is in that category currently, either under 40lbs or boostered). Ok, rant over.
Thanks, Kecia! Lest anyone think we are biased against Honda, as you pointed out, you drive a Honda SUV, while Heather drives an Acura SUV and I have a Honda minivan! This really is an issue that has been a problem for so long and can no longer be be ignored. Wouldn’t it be nice if parents could buy one of the many child restraints with a harness rated to 65 pounds and have the simple expectation that they can use a critical attached safety feature to that limit without exceptions, deferrals, conditions and without hunting for the information outside of their owner’s manual?