Are vehicle latches for child seats universal, or are some better than others? What should I look for in a vehicle latch to ensure my baby will be safe?

The size, shape, and fragility of children’s bodies make them extremely susceptible to the destructive forces of a car accident. In addition to exerting excessive pressure on their limbs, impact force from a collision can also cause their small frames to twist and be expelled from their seats. As a result of these potentially catastrophic events, child restraints and car seats have evolved greatly over the past 30 years to ensure proper protection when children are riding in a vehicle.

Furthermore, vehicle manufacturers have realized that car seats themselves aren’t enough to guarantee security. If the seats aren’t properly anchored to the vehicle’s seat, the child can still be thrown and injured. In recognition of this hazard, car manufacturers have been required to install Lower Anchors and Tethers for Children Harnesses (LATCH) systems in every car since 2002. These systems are meant to create a more secure area for parents to anchor their child’s car seat, thus creating a safer restraint for the child.

Unfortunately, although designed for safety, not all LATCHes are the same.

Marks of a Good LATCH

For a vehicle’s LATCH system to earn a good rating with the Insurance Institute of Highway Safety, the system’s hardware must meet or exceed certain safety expectations. These expectations include the following:

  • Depth. The lower anchors must not exceed a depth of ¾ of an inch into the seat corner (where the vehicle seat meets the seat cushion).
  • Accessibility. The lower anchors must be easy to locate and maneuver around; specifically, the anchor must have a clearance capacity greater than 54 degrees.
  • Ease. The anchor must be able to be attached with less than 40 pounds of pressure.
  • Location. Tether anchors must be located on the vehicle’s rear deck or in the top 85 percent of the seat back. Tethers that are located at the very bottom of the seat back, under the seat, or on the floor can be difficult to use and are therefore given a lower rating.
  • Simple installation. Anchors and tethers should be clearly marked, and no other hardware should be placed near them. If the anchor is too close to another piece of hardware, it may cause confusion and improper connections, increasing risk of restraint failure. If other hardware is present, the tether anchor must have a clear label located within three inches of it.

For more information on how you can keep your child from suffering catastrophic injuries during a car accident, feel free to browse our extensive collection of safety articles. We strive to educate our clients and potential clients on the importance of car safety to protect them before an accident. We also provide understanding, experience, and guidance to protect them after an accident. Explore our educational tools and see how we can help you, no matter which stage of an accident claim you’re trying to pursue.