For many car seats, parents have had two options: Using the seat belt in the car to attach the seat, or using the LATCH system – Lower Anchors and Tethers for Children – which most parents consider easier to use for installing the seat.
However, with a new federal rule that will take affect in early 2014, child safety-seat manufacturers will be required to tell parents not to use the LATCH system if their child and the car seat have a combined weight of 65 pounds or more.
Many car seats weigh as much as 15 to 33 pounds, so children as light as 32 pounds or as young as 3 may be affected by this new rule. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that children remain in car seats with harnesses until they are 8.
The Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers petitioned for the new rule because the strength of the lower tethers was not enough to assure the safety of heavier children. Other safety advocates say that seat belts need to be strengthened to reduce the risk of njuries to children.
Other problems have been noted with the LATCH system.
Last summer, a study by Safe Kids Worldwide found that community checkpoint technicians were only using lower anchors to attach child safety seats about 30 percent of the time, and parents were only using the top tethers about 30 percent of the time.