In this episode of CarseatBlog Mythbusting, we look at the common perception that LATCH installations are safer than seatbelt installations.
Myth: For the safest installation, install your carseat using the LATCH system, not the seatbelt.
As most people know, LATCH (Lower Anchors and Tethers for CHildren) is touted to be the easiest and most simple way to install your child’s car seat. Because it’s still somewhat novel and is more frequently mentioned, a lot of parents just assume it’s safer to use the lower anchors + top tether instead of the seat belt + tether.
The LATCH system was designed to simplify car seat installation, which in theory would reduce the risk of the seat being installed incorrectly. The easier something is, the more likely someone will get it right. A correctly installed car seat is a safe car seat.
Seatbelts can be finicky at times and the different types of locking mechanisms can be confusing. However, LATCH systems can come with their own set of challenges.
Some lower anchor bars are extremely easy to access, and some are buried deep with the upholstery/foam and almost impossible to reach. Most vehicles don’t have lower LATCH anchors in the center seating position and “borrowing” lower anchors (one from each outboard position) is allowed in some vehicles and prohibited in others. Tether anchors can be hard to find and difficult to access in some vehicles. Add to this the complexities of LATCH weight limits and suddenly LATCH doesn’t seem all that easy or simple anymore.
Conclusion: A carseat installed correctly and securely with a seatbelt (and tether, if forward-facing) is just as safe as a carseat installed correctly and securely with the LATCH system. In some cars, the lower LATCH anchors are buried and it’s easier to get a proper install with a seat belt. In other cars, the anchors may be super easy to access and it’s quicker to click, tighten, and go. It really depends on your vehicle, your child, your carseat and your carseat’s LATCH weight limits.
If there are no compelling circumstances to choose one system over the other (e.g., exceeding the LATCH weight limit) and both systems yield an equally secure installation, LATCH is not any safer than seatbelt.
Consider this myth BUSTED!
Note: Most infant seat bases and rear-facing convertibles are installed using only the lower LATCH anchor attachments if you’re choosing to install using the LATCH system. Forward-facing seats are installed using the lower anchors AND the top tether. Do NOT install your carseat or infant seat base using both the LATCH strap AND the seatbelt simultaneously unless your car seat manual specifically allows this. 99% of car seats do NOT allow LATCH & seatbelt to be used together but there are a few exceptions so read your manual to know for sure!
Saying “just as safe”is a stretch of truth. Truth is that using the seatbelt to secure the car seat is far safer than using LATCH. Seatbelts are tested to about 3 tons of force, and newer seatbelts that allow stretch can reduce almost half the amount of Gs put on the occupant. LATCH is a convenience and nothing more; for the safest results learn to use the seatbelt correctly and install with it.
thanks for all the information! I have four kids and would suggest that if some one has carseats in a row or older kids to use the latch. I have found numerous times that a older child has accidentally unbuckled a convertible carseat! who knows how long you may strap a baby into a seat that is not buckled (as the buckle stays threaded through so looks buckled from the side). Also if you have three carseats in a row it is so hard for an older kid to buckle a booster and easy for them to unbuckle the wrong one! It just makes me sick knowing this can happen and now we only use the latch with any harness style seat! Thank you, so much!