|Posted by beyondthecarseatminimums_alabama on November 27, 2013 at 12:30 AM|
By now, you've probably seen one of the many news articles posted around the internet about the new LATCH laws going into effect in 2014, and you're probably pretty confused.
What is the law changing?
Honestly, there isn't much change for the average parent. The new law will affect how the car seat manufacturers have to label their seats, and the way they will be doing crash testing.
NHTSA is requiring bigger crash test dummies to be used for testing of seats that have high harness weight limits. (Seats that harness between 50-65lbs will need to use the "6 year old" Dummy, and seats that harness above 65lbs will use the "10 year old" Dummy.) If the combined weight of the dummy and the car seat is 65lbs or above, then the LATCH will not be used in testing; only a seat belt installation will be done.
After February 2014, all car seat manufacturers will be required to add a label to their restraints that clearly states the weight of the seat, or the max weight of the child allowed to install with LATCH. The combined weight of the child and the seat cannot be above 65lbs.
How does this affect YOU using your seat?
LATCH has always had a weight limit. Because it varies by seat manufacturer and car seat manufacturer, there has not always been a clear answer for parents to know when to stop using LATCH. The new regulations have the intention of making it easier to know, and having the car seats labeled should help remove some of the confusion.
Most vehicle manufacturers have already announced that they have made this weight change to their LATCH system, but only some have made it retroactive. Some vehicles simply state to refer to your specific child restraint for the LATCH limit. Sometimes you'll have a combination of vehicle and car seat that state two different LATCH limits, and in those cases you should always use the lowest limit stated.
Always check with your car seat manual AND your vehicle manual to determine your LATCH weight limit. Once that limit is reached, you must change to a seat belt installation.
LATCH was designed to be a more convenient option for installing child seats, not a safer option. The seat belt and LATCH are equally safe when used correctly, so there is no concern of having to switch to a seat belt installation for your seats.
If you're having trouble locating your LATCH limits, contact a CPST. Many have a LATCH Manual that they can reference for all the details of your car seat and vehicle combinations.