LATCH-Installed Car Seats are a Weighty Issue, says AAA
Majority of car seat installation experts encounter weight-related errors
Phoenix, Feb. 25, 2014. A final rulemaking from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), announced this week, revises weight-limit labeling for Lower Anchors and Tethers for Children (LATCH)-installed car seats.
The revision includes the weight of the child and the car seat itself. The current guidance only accounts for the child’s weight. Caregivers, unaware of weight limit restrictions, may be unknowingly exceeding weight limits by neglecting to factor in their child’s weight along with the increasingly heavy car seat.
For example, if a car seat weighs 20 lbs., and a child is 50 lbs., this combined weight would exceed a recommended 65 lb. weight limit for the seat, and could therefore jeopardize the performance of the seat in a crash.
“In the event of a crash, exceeded weight limits may cause the lower anchors and tether to perform improperly, leaving children vulnerable to injury or death,” said Linda Gorman, director of communications and public affairs for AAA Arizona.
A recent AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety survey of Child Passenger Safety Technicians (CPSTs), found that 85 percent of CPSTs have encountered LATCH weight limits that exceed recommendations, and nearly one in five report seeing this often.
The primary purpose of LATCH, required as of 2002, was to increase the likelihood that caregivers could achieve a correct car seat installation more often than when using the seat belt to fasten the car seat. However, according to the AAA Foundation’s survey, more than half of CPSTs report caregivers are less likely to install a child seat correctly using LATCH.
Additional survey highlights include:
· 80.5 percent of CPSTs report that LATCH installation errors are not obvious to caregivers.
· Nearly one-third (29.7 percent) of CPSTs feel LATCH is more complicated than it needs to be.
· More than half (54.6 percent) of CPSTs believe LATCH needs to be improved.
“We also see a lot of improperly placed car seats in the center seat, where most LATCH systems are not designed to work,” said Mike Duhame, CPST for AAA Arizona. “Some newer vehicles made for families have started placing LATCH systems in each position of the back seat, which would be ideal for all vehicles.”
In addition to the CPST survey, and to help shape federal regulations, the AAA Foundation project included an expert panel and human factors analyses of the LATCH system. The panel rated various LATCH usability issues based on the frequency that the mistakes occur and the severity of the injury potential.
“As a traffic safety advocate, AAA believes clear labeling is a step in the right direction, but standardization of equipment and proper education of caregivers remain the priority,” Gorman said.
The full research report and white paper were provided to NHTSA in December 2013.
For parents and caregivers that have any questions on installing their seats, AAA Arizona has certified Child Passenger Safety Technicians on staff. Inspections and installations are free for members and non-members alike. To learn more, visit AAA.com/trafficsafety.
AAA Arizona, the Arizona affiliate of AAA, provides automotive, insurance and travel services to more than 850,000 Arizona members. Annually, AAA’s Roadside Assistance responds to nearly 550,000 calls for help on Arizona roadways. The auto club also provides discounts and financial services to AAA members. Since its founding in 1927, AAA Arizona has been a leading advocate for the safety and security of all travelers.