What's Safest: Latch or Seat Belt?
LATCH or Seat Belt...which is safer? That is the question many ask. We have the answers here.
LATCH (Lower Anchors & Tethers for Children) was developed to try and make it easier to correctly install car seats in vehicles. LATCH can be found in most vehicles since late 2002. Lower anchors are required in at least two seating positions in the rear of the vehicle, and tether anchors are required in at least three seating positions. You can locate the LATCH locations in your vehicle by looking for the symbols on the seats or by referencing your vehicle owners manual. Lower anchors can be found in the seat crack of the vehicle in the designated locations.
Tether anchors can be found behind the seating position with the lower anchors, or they can se in a seating position without lower anchors. Sometimes tether anchors will be located in the ceiling, on the floor board, or under a panel. Always refer to the vehicle manual to locate them. LATCH has weight limits which vary based on country (US and Canada) and date the car seat was manufactured. Once the LATCH weight limit is reached, the car seat must be installed with the vehicle seat belt.
To determine the LATCH limit of your car seat reference your seat's manual or contact the manufacturer's customer service. What is a seat belt? By definition, a seat belt is a belt or strap that secures a person to prevent injury.
Seat belts have been found in motor vehicles since the 1950’s and have evolved immensely over the past 67 years in terms of how they are used for car seat installations. Seat belts, in contrast the the low limits of the LATCH system, are designed to hold thousands of pounds.
Which is safer to use for my car seat?
Either seat belt or LATCH, when used correctly, are equally safe. There are many things to keep in mind when deciding which method to use for your child’s car seat.
- Child’s weight – If your child’s weight is over the LATCH limit, then the decision to use a seat belt installation is an easy one as it’s your only option. But if this is the case be sure that, if they are forward-facing, you are still using the top tether! Always use the top tether, per your manufacturer instructions, when it is present.
- Seating position – Does the seating position you are installing your child’s seat have the LATCH system? If lower anchors are present in the seating position then a tether anchor will also be present. On the flip side, if you do not find lower anchors in a seating position you may still find that there is a tether anchor present.
Tips for when deciding to use LATCH
- Use lower anchors or seat belt, not both. Of course there are a couple of exceptions to this general rule, but the most important thing you can do to know if your seat in an exception is to read your car seat manual as well as the manual for your vehicle.
- Only use lower anchors in designated seating positions. Do not use an anchor from two seating positions to install one car seat (often referred to as LATCH borrowing). This is typically not allowed. Again, most important thing you can do to know if your seat in an exception is to read your car seat manual as well as the manual for your vehicle (Are you picking up on a trend here?...Read those manuals!).
- Follow manufacturer’s instructions, both car seat and vehicle, when determining the LATCH weight limits.
- When in doubt, contact your car seat manufacturer! They should be your #1 resource for all car seat questions.