What is LATCH? LATCH stands for lower anchors and tethers for children, and the purpose of its design is to ensure that car seats can be installed easier. Since 2002, all new cars that were manufactured had to have the LATCH anchors, doing away with the need to use passenger seatbelts to secure the car seat. The LATCH system consists of two permanent anchors situated at the base of the back seats and another anchor at the headrest of each backseat on all vehicles. They are universally compatible to all car seats, and specially designed to fit the car seat’s tether straps and locking clips.
I think it’s important to point out that LATCH was not created to be a replacement for seatbelts. Seatbelts have always been the best way to safely secure an infant or toddler car seat, but if you’ve ever faced the challenge of trying to make sure your car seat is securely installed, you know it can be difficult. So, instead of the danger of improperly installed car seats, LATCH was created to provide an easier way to secure a car seat. Having said that, there might be one form of LATCH that actually is safer than the seatbelt. Unfortunately, it’s not something widely used in the US. However, most European cars have something called rigid LATCH. In contrast to the latch system that we are familiar with, where the lower connectors are sewn into a flexible strap that you in turn have to tighten, with rigid LATCH the anchor connectors are rigidly connected to the steel frame of the car seat. That means that if you should ever be in a car accident where you are broad sided, the car seat would remain in position and not sway from side to side.
What If I Have an Old Car Seat That Doesn’t Have LATCH?
Some car seat manufacturers, most notably Evenflo, do you have tether extenders for anchors that are in hard-to-reach areas in certain cars. They also recommend the use of top tethers on any forward facing car seat in your vehicle, if it is available.
What many people may not be aware of is that there are weight limitations with LATCH. Latch is currently designed for a maximum weight of 65 pounds for both the child and the seat. So that means it is likely that if your child is anywhere from 40 to 48 pounds they’ve outgrown LATCH, and you should be using your car’s seatbelts and not the LATCH system. Since it seems that many people were not aware of that, new legislation has been passed. Starting in February 2014, it is now required that all labeling clarify the limits of LATCH for each car seat. The purpose of this new labeling is to make it clear that a child’s weight determines how long LATCH is to be used. Not only that, each seat label must clearly identify weight limits.