Using LATCH? Is Your Seat Safe?
Did you know that the LATCH system in vehicles should not be used past a certain weight limit? The exact number has been left to each vehicle and seat manufacturer to determine, making for a somewhat confusing grey area. This means that each car seat and each car might designate different limits, and you would need to know the limits for each car that will be used. Now, I know that when we first installed our car seat, reaching weight limits seemed so far in the future that I didn’t spend much time thinking about them. Unfortunately, in some cases that might lead to unsafe situations. If parents aren’t given an exact number to plan for, like waiting until two years of age to turn forward-facing, then there is a greater risk of children riding in improperly restrained car seats. Luckily, it seems that things are beginning to change.
Before we talk about that change, let’s talk about the reasons for the limits. If you are like most parents, LATCH seems like the safest and fastest way to install a car safety seat. So why would you ever not use the system? As the Car Seat Lady explains, “Since the lower anchors bear the brunt of the force in a crash, concern for their weight limit is especially important. They are designed to restrain the weight of a child safety seat plus the weight of a small child. The vehicle's safety belt, which is stronger because it is designed to restrain large adults, is a good substitute for the lower anchors when securing a child safety seat used by a heavier child.”
The new rule begins to make clear the exact limitations of the LATCH anchors, no matter which type of vehicle is being used. “The rule requires child-seat makers to tell parents not to use the lower anchors required in cars since 2001 if children and their car seats have a combined weight of 65 pounds, because the strength of the anchors cannot be guaranteed.” Since car seats have weights ranging from 15 to 32 pounds, even a child as small as 34 lbs would need to be in a seat restrained using the seatbelt instead of the LATCH.
This rule helps to simplify things, allowing parents to judge whether to use a safety belt or LATCH based on the weight of their seat and the weight of their child. Now we just need to be sure that these numbers are getting to parents. Were you aware that LATCH systems had a weight limit?