By: Courtney Ilarraza
As you may or may not know there is a new Car Seat guideline taking effect February 2014 regarding the use of the LATCH anchors. LATCH, if you’re not familiar, is a revolutionary system to secure car seats without using the seat belt. It is required to be in all cars made in North America after 2002. It also exists in Europe where it is called ISOFIX. The point of LATCH was to create a simple way to secure car seats that would be universal. So long as the vehicle has LATCH, installation is the same no matter the make or model. You may have noticed the loop shaped metal rings in the back seat of your car where the seat meets the seat back. These are the LATCH anchors.
At the moment the standard maximum weight limit for LATCH is 40 lbs. When your child reaches 40 lbs. you should no longer use LATCH. A crash with a child weighing more than 40 pounds could cause a failure. The problem is the variable of car seat weights. What was the tipping point? Some seats are light and some are heavy.
The new guidelines address this by changing the maximum rated weight to 65 lbs, this being the combined weight of the child and the car seat. To make sure your child is still safe using LATCH when the new law goes into effect; simply weight your child and your seat. If combined they weigh over 65 pounds, it is time to use the seat belt.
Not everyone is happy about the new LATCH law. The Juvenile Products Manufacturers Association (JPMA), which represents the makers of child car seats, wants NHTSA to consider suspending the new LATCH weight requirement.
In a statement, the association says: “We believe that this requirement will have a negative impact on proper car seat use and cause more confusion among parents and caregivers on how to use car seats correctly.”
According to the association, the new regulation will cause parents to trust LATCH less, will mean kids will graduate to booster seats too soon and will lead to increasing misuse of LATCH.
Up to 75 percent of child car seats already are improperly installed or used, according to JPMA.
Often parents want to use LATCH when we teach our car seat class because they believe it is safer. LATCH is not safer than using the safety belt; it is just thought to be easier for parents to get a proper fit using LATCH. The safest method of securing a car seat is whichever you can use to get the proper fit. For some people it will be with the seat belt, for others it will be via LATCH. Parents and care givers should never use both simultaneously as they are not designed for that.
We at Baby Bodyguards typically recommend using the seat belt to secure the car seat once your child graduates to forward facing. By that time you are likely going to be approaching the weight limit for LATCH and its one less thing to have to think about. If parents can get the best fit using LATCH that would be fine for infant and rear-facing applications. Again the safest method to secure the car seat is the one (LATCH or seat belt) that the installer is most comfortable with, that they can get the tightest fit with.