Lower Anchors and Tethers for Children, or LATCH, is the child-seat safety system found in virtually all cars and vehicles sold in the U.S. LATCH was mandated by the federal government starting in 2001.
In 2014, though, child-seat manufactures will have to notify parents and other child caregivers not to use the lower anchors used with the system. According to child safety advocates and the Alliance of Automobile Manufactures, the anchor strength of the LATCH system cannot be guaranteed to meet the requirement that the combined child and seat weights are equal or less than 65 pounds. Many of today’s child seats weigh around 30 pounds alone; many young children weigh even more. The situation is made even more dicey by the American Academy of Pediatrics, which recommends children to continue using child safety seats in vehicles until the age of eight. Since the average American eight year old girl, for example, weighs around 58 pounds while an eight year old boy weighs slightly less at 56 pounds, they quickly exceed the anchor limit.
So should parents follow the law and stop using anchors? That has its own problems. States Stephanie Tombrello of SafetyBeltSafe, “Disconnecting tethers when their use is needed…could lead to a tragedy.” Other child safety advocacy groups and the AAM are recommending the 65 pound limit be raised to meet today’s heavier seats and children. Child-seat manufacturers are already developing seats for heavier children based on the AAP’s studies and recommendations alone.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, which urges parents to register their child car seats with the agency, also advocates seatbelt use with children car seats as well as the LATCH system. States Transportation Department spokeswoman Lynda Tran, ” “While LATCH makes it easier to properly install car seats in vehicles, it’s important for parents and caregivers to know that securing a child seat with a seat belt is equally as safe — and that they have the flexibility to use either system.” However, our colleagues over at Family Car Review point out there are other safety issues with using seatbelts with child seats. And we here in Automotive.com strive to include mention of LATCH effectiveness in our car reviews.
Sources: USA Today, Family Car Review