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Car Seat LATCH System

By Valerie Baldowski
The LATCH System Makes Installing a Car Seat User Friendly

Once upon a time the rules for installing infant car seats were informal and left up to individual families, but now the rules are much more stringent. In 2002 the government mandated the LATCH restraint system, (Lower Anchors and Tethers for Children) which is a standardized system to ensure their safety when riding. The term is thrown around a lot in discussions of which car seat is the best, but few stop to explain in detail exactly what a LATCH in a car seat is or why it’s so important.

LATCH simplifies the correct installation of car seats without using seat belts at all. Vehicles equipped with this system have two or more sets of small bars, or anchors, at the bottom of the back seat where the cushions meet. Child safety seats with the system have attachments designed to fasten to these anchors. Most of the forward-facing infant car seats on the market have a top strap, or tether, as well, which attaches to another anchor in the car. These attachments and straps make up the LATCH system.

Using LATCH makes the process of putting in the car seat easier and less intimidating. With the older models of seats, when trying to install an infant car seat most parents got confused about which straps went where, how to tighten the seat belts and whether to put the car seat on the left or right side. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, three out of four car seats are installed incorrectly. Most car seats, and almost all vehicles made after Sept. 1, 2002, are equipped with the LATCH system to help parents get the seats strapped in right.

One of the reasons consumers are warned about using older model car seats is that they aren’t equipped with the LATCH system, so they don’t meet safety standards in place for child restraint systems. With older models of car seats without LATCH, or older cars lacking the system, the car seat can still be installed using the seat belt. But the drawback is that once you finally get the child safety seat correctly installed and you manage to pull the seat belt tight enough, taking it out means having to fight with the seat belt to re-install it.

Some brands using the newer system include Evenflo, the 1st years, Graco, Chicco KeyFit, Peg Perego 30 and Baby Trend. Although LATCH has greatly simplified installing car seats, parents still bewildered have another place to turn to for help. Hospital Child Passenger Safety Technicians are a knowledgeable source. Local fire and police departments also have trained personnel who can demonstrate how to install the seat.

Valerie Baldowski is passionate about writing about everything from childrens safety and juvenile products to gardening tools. She is the mother of a high energy 8 year old child so she is accustomed to researching childrens products and services… See more about Valerie

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