In today’s highly mobile society, children travel more than ever. Sadly, this mobility comes at a staggering price. In 2007, more than 1,600 kids died and over 200,000 were injured in car crashes – enough to rank motor vehicle crashes as a leading cause of death for children in the U.S. Tragically, many of these deaths could have been prevented. Research shows that seat belts and safety seats – when properly used – are the most effective tools in preventing injuries and deaths in vehicle crashes.
The LATCH System provides an additional method for installing car seats beyond seat belts.
The LATCH system does not require the use of your vehicle’s safety belt to install. As of September 2002, all child safety seats are equipped with two lower tether attachments – see illustration – that attach to a set of bars located in or just above the crease of the rear vehicle seat.
The lower tethers are designed to work in conjunction with top tethers, which have been a requirement for new vehicles and safety seats since 1999. The top tether of the seat is designed to fit into a top anchor built into the vehicle.
Check the vehicle owner’s manual for tether and anchor locations. Most vehicle manufacturers offer retrofit kits for top anchors at little or no cost.
The LATCH system is designed for rear-facing and forward-facing child safety seats. It is NOT designed for use with most booster seats, check your car seat manual for LATCH specifics. Choose the installation method that allows you to achieve the best fit in your vehicle, if you can get a tight fit, then the seat belt or LATCH installation are equally safe to use. Make sure to choose one or the other; do not use the LATCH system and seat belt together to install your seat.