Children Car Seat Safety
Q:What is LATCH?
A: LATCH stands for Lower Anchors and Tethers for Children. It is a system mandated by the federal government in an effort to standardize and simplify the installation of child restraints. Nearly all new vehicles and child safety seats manufactured on and after September 1, 2002 will be equipped with the LATCH system. Cars, minivans, and light trucks will be required to have anchor points between the vehicle's seat cushion and the seat back in at least two rear seating positions. Child safety seats will have tether straps or rigid connectors that hook into these anchors, thereby eliminating the need to secure the safety seat to the vehicle using the vehicle's seat belt system.
Q:What happens if I own a new LATCH-equipped vehicle, do I have to buy a new car seat with LATCH?
A: No, you can still use the vehicle seat belt system to secure your safety seat to the vehicle, and it is just as safe. However, many child safety seat manufacturers offer LATCH retro-fit kits that can make your current seat LATCH-ready. Contact your child safety seat manufacturer to find out if your seat can be equipped with LATCH connectors.
Q:What if I don't have a vehicle with LATCH?
A: As of September 1, 2002, child safety seats are required to have both seat belt and LATCH options. All new child safety seats still can be safely and securely buckled into a vehicle using the vehicle's seat belt system.
Q: Is it is still important to have my child seat inspected?
A: Yes, even with LATCH car seat installation mistakes and misuse can still occur. LATCH resolves two of the most common safety seat errors, but other risks remain. These errors include the following: the child safety seat harness straps are too loose; the child safety seat is facing the wrong direction in the vehicle; the child is not the appropriate height, weight and/or age for the safety seat; the infant seat is in the path of an air bag, children who should ride in a booster seat are moved prematurely to an adult seat belt system; and the safety seat has been recalled or has been involved in a crash. Have your child's safety seat inspected by a trained and certified technician for free, by calling toll-free 1-866-SEAT-CHECK or by logging onto: www.seatcheck.org.
Q:If I have a LATCH-compatible vehicle and car seat, will that ensure my child's safety?
A:While the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) estimates that the LATCH system will reduce as much as half the misuse associated with improperly installing a safety seat, it does not eliminate all mistakes. Many other factors contribute to an increased risk of injury if a child is incorrectly secured when involved in a crash. For example: the child is not the appropriate age/weight/height for the safety seat, the car seat harness straps are too loose, or the seat has been recalled or involved in a crash, thus not giving the child adequate protection. It is best to have a trained and certified technician inspect your seat and teach you the proper installation for your vehicle and safety seat. Locate an inspection location convenient to you by calling or logging onto Seat Check (866-SEAT-CHECK, www.seatcheck.org).
Q: My child uses a booster seat. Will I need the new LATCH system?
A:No, LATCH is used only for rear-facing and forward-facing child safety seats that must be installed in a vehicle. Booster seats are for children at least 40 lbs. and up to 4'9" tall and help the vehicle's standard lap and shoulder belt fit better. The vehicle's lap and shoulder belt provides restraint when used with a booster seat.