July 11, 2006

Driving Your Children Across The LATCH-less Tundra Wh-ch! Wh-ch!


I had to re-read the announcement of Toyota's recall of Tundra pickups three times to figure it out.

Between 2003-2005, Toyota sold its Tundra pickups with an airbag cut-off switch, but without LATCH carseat anchors in the front seat. The switch is only allowed in spots with LATCH, but Toyota didn't design LATCH into the front seat. For 2006 models, the cut-off switch was deactivated altogether.

So Toyota's been selling LATCH-less Tundras for two years, knowing they don't meet federal safety regulations, all the while petitioning for a waiver for the LATCH-less-ness. Well, that waiver was denied, and now Toyota's recalling nearly 160,000 Tundras in order to install LATCH. No, wait. In order to deactivate the cut-off switch and make sure the airbag deploys all the time, even if there's a child in the front seat. Huh??

Toyota to recall Tundra air bags [detnews.com via jalopnik]

Turns out the recall only applies to trucks with backseats, the Access cab and Double cab models, which have LATCH in the back. So this really only matters to Tundra drivers with carseats, but who don't use LATCH. Does their carseat not have LATCH? Did they get a Maxi-Cosi or something? Or did they blow all their money on the new truck and didn't have any left for a new carseat? Or do they think LATCH is just for losers who can't figure out the seat belt installation?

Or are they just determined to put the kid in the front seat--even though it's less safe--because it's easier to wrangle the kid while you drive? Toyota said it never had any complaints about its LATCH-less front seats, but maybe that's because Tundra drivers just aren't the complainin' type. They're more the type--as the NHTSA noted in its letter to Toyota--to homebrew their own carseat adapters in order to use the front seat, "us[ing] seat belt latch plates [and] drill[ing] holes through the nylon webbing of the seat belt." My guess is this fix-it-my-damn-self group will not be rushing to the dealer to have their airbag deactivator deactivated. And if they do, maybe they'll just rig up some baby-friendlier airbags out of a Hefty bag and the compressed air canister from this here pellet gun.

1 Comment

Consumer Reports did some testing last year, and ended up not at all impressed with LATCH:

"The problems we saw in our tests highlight a discrepancy that is not widely reported: LATCH and vehicle safety belts donĺ─˘t behave identically with weights at or close to the manufacturersĺ─˘ limits. One possible explanation is that the LATCH strap webbing is narrower and may be weaker than a standard vehicle safety belt. [...]"

[I feel obliged to flack for LATCH because it's the law and a marginally better solution for idiot-mitigation, but for my own kid, I'm confident to use only non-LATCH seats in non-LATCH cars. -ed.]

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