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Child Car Seats, LATCH and Weight Limits

Revised Rule Implemented for Safer Car Seat Installation

(updated June 15th, 2015)

Thanks to heavier car seats — and heavier kids — the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) is urging parents to review how they use the LATCH system for children's car seats.

LATCH stands for Lower Anchors and Tethers for Children. It has been in effect since 2002 and is meant to make it easier to install child car seats. Instead of using seatbelts to secure the seats, LATCH employs attachments that use the lower anchors and tethers found in vehicles and on child car seats.

In a rule that became effective in February 2014, NHTSA advises parents not to use the lower anchors of LATCH if the combined weight of the child and the car seat is 65 pounds or more, according to NHTSA. The agency does allow car seat makers to round up child weight maximums to whole numbers, such as 40 pounds instead of 38, so the total combined weight maximum may be closer to 70 pounds for a few car seats.

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Once children and their seats are past the weight limit for the lower anchors, parents can secure the child seat using the safety-belt system. The 2014 revision to the rule only applies to the lower anchors. Use of the tether strap that is attached to the top anchor is not affected.

Generally, top tethers are used for forward-facing car seats and can be used either with LATCH or seatbelts, according to NHTSA. But the agency recommends first checking with the makers of the seat and the car to be sure.

The switch away from lower anchors at the combined 65-pound weight limit is a safety precaution, according to NHTSA. In discussions with the agency, vehicle manufacturer associations and some makers of child car seats supported the combined weight label so consumers would know how heavy a child could be without potentially overloading the LATCH anchors.

For more detail on LATCH and weight limits, please read "What's the Deal With Weight Limits?" at Car Seats for the Littles and "LATCH Weight Limits" at The Car Seat Lady.

More Car Seat Resources
Here is more information for parents to ensure that their young passengers are riding safely:

  • The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that infants and toddlers ride in rear-facing seats until they are 2 years old or until they are at the weight or height maximum allowed by the car seat maker. At that point, children should ride in forward-facing car seats with a harness, still in the vehicle's backseat.

  • Children then graduate to booster seats until the vehicle's seatbelt fits properly without a booster. Going without a booster is typically when the child is 4 feet, 9 inches tall and about 8-12 years old, according to the academy. Children should continue to ride in the backseat until they are 13. More information on child car seats can be found at the American Academy of Pediatrics' car seat page. The academy also has created a Car Seat Check app for iPhones and iPads ($1.99).

  • Parents can visit NHTSA for car seat installation videos. Other information is at NHTSA's Car Seat Recommendations for Children.

  • Professional advice on car seat installation is available at a certified child car seat inspection station.