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AAA Foundation Finds LATCH-Installed Car Seats to be a Weighty Issue

Majority of car seat installation experts encounter weight-related errors

WASHINGTON, Feb. 25, 2014 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- A final rulemaking from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), expected this week, revises weight-limit labeling for Lower Anchors and Tethers for Children (LATCH)-installed car seats to include both the weight of the child and the car seat itself, unlike current guidance which 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. A recent AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety survey of Child Passenger Safety Technicians (CPSTs), those certified to check and educate parents on the installation of car seats, found that 85 percent of CPSTs have encountered LATCH weight limits that exceed recommendations, and nearly one in five report seeing this often. 

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"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," warned AAA's Director of Traffic Safety Research & Advocacy Jake Nelson.  "Clear labeling is a step in the right direction, but standardization of equipment and proper education of caregivers remain the priority."

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.  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.

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.






Negligible: Less than minor injury to the child.




Marginal: Minor injury to the child, including minor abrasions and contusions.




Critical: Severe injury, including broken bones, spinal damage, head injuries, internal organ damage, and/or loss of life.



Examples of frequent mistakes with marginal-to-critical consequences:

  • Confusion/misinterpretation of weight limit; not factoring in weight of both car seat and child.
    • Consequence:  Lower anchors, connectors and tether may not adequately restrain the car seat and child during a collision.
    • AAA Recommendation:  At a minimum, set the lower anchor weight limit to 65 pounds for the combined weight of the child and the car seat; require standardization and clear labeling of car seat weights and limits.
  • Using LATCH in the center position of the rear seat by using inner bars of outboard lower anchors when not specified as an option by vehicle manufacturer.
    • Consequence: Lower anchors and connectors may not adequately restrain the car seat and child during a collision.
    • AAA Recommendation: Make lower anchors available in all preferred seating positions, including the rear center seat – generally the safest seating position.
  • Not securing or stowing the tether when a convertible seat is used in a rear-facing position.
    • Consequence: In a collision, the loose tether strap/hook may swing freely, injuring the child or other passengers (e.g., projectile hazard).
    • AAA Recommendation:  Manuals should emphasize need to store the tether and indicate where it should be stored.

The full research report and white paper were provided to NHTSA in December 2013.

Established by AAA in 1947, the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety is a 501(c) (3) not-for-profit, publicly-supported charitable educational and research organization. Dedicated to saving lives and reducing injuries on our roads, the Foundation's mission is to prevent crashes and save lives through research and education about traffic safety. The Foundation has funded over 200 research projects designed to discover the causes of traffic crashes, prevent them, and minimize injuries when they do occur.  Visit www.aaafoundation.org for more information on this and other research.

As North America's largest motoring and leisure travel organization, AAA provides more than 54 million members with travel, insurance, financial and automotive-related services. Since its founding in 1902, the not-for-profit, fully tax-paying AAA has been a leader and advocate for the safety and security of all travelers. AAA clubs can be visited on the Internet at AAA.com.

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