For many car seats, you have two choices when installing your car seat – Lower Anchors and Tethers for Children (LATCH) or using the vehicle’s seat belt with the tether whenever possible. Both are equally safe when used correctly, and should never be used together, unless specified by the manufacturer.
LATCH, required as of 2002, was designed to increase the likelihood that caregivers could achieve a correct car seat installation more often than when using the seat belt. However, according to recent research from the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety, that’s not always the case.
When choosing an installation method for your child’s car seat, the most important thing to remember is the weight of both your child AND the car seat itself. New regulations from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration require that the combined weight of the child and the seat cannot exceed 65 pounds when installing with the lower anchors. However, that doesn’t mean you can no longer use the seat – simply switch to a seat belt installation.
With either installation method, it’s important to remember the tether strap. This tether reduces forward movement of your child’s head and neck in the event of a crash or sudden stop.
For peace of mind, have your installation checked by a professional. Visit seatcheck.org to find a Certified Child Passenger Safety Technician near you.