A new federal rule is expected to be in place by the end of February relating to child seat weight limits for LATCH anchor systems. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) is expected to require makers of child safety seats to include labels that warn of combined limit for both the weight of the child and the seat.
LATCH is an acronym for Lower Anchors and Tethers for Children. The anchor connects the bottom of the car seat to certain positions at the back of the vehicle. According to the NHTSA, the LATCH anchor system was designed to make it easier to install child safety seats in cars. Using the LATCH tether replaces the need to use the existing car seat belts to install and “anchor” the seat into the car. Once the car seat is situated within the car, the car seat’s own harness belts are used to secure the child into the car seat.
LATCH anchors have been required in almost all cars and child safety seats since 2002. All child seats include posted weight limits for the child. What’s new is that the NHTSA is expected to require manufacturers to post weight limits that combine the weight of the seat and the child. Manufacturers will be then be expected to post the weight of the seat in several places so parents can easily add that to their child’s weight.
After graduating from infant seats, the American Academy of Pediatricians recommends that children continue to use booster seats until they are tall enough for car seat belts to fit and protect them adequately. That can be until a child is 8-12 years old.
Apparently there is a concern that the LATCH anchors may not adequately protect children over a certain weight. If the child’s weight combined with the seat is more than 65 pounds, the NHTSA is expected to recommend that parents not use the LATCH anchors and instead secure the car seat to the car with the existing seatbelts.
Child safety advocates suggest this is not the right answer. LATCH anchors were originally designed in part because many parents don’t know how to properly install a car seat to the car using a seatbelt. If the problem is that existing LATCH anchors are not strong enough to protect older children, the NHTSA should require stronger anchors, they say.