The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration
(NHTSA) has a sister site called Parents Central
that has many useful articles, graphs, pictures, and videos all about car seat
safety. Parents Central says that over 50% of car seats are not installed properly. That's a scary, sobering thought.
There are two ways to install a car seat into a car. One way is to use the standard seat belt that comes with the car. The other is to use the LATCH system. Both are equally safe. Before installing your car seat always be sure to follow both the car seat manufacturer's guide and the automobile's user's guide. In the vehicle user's guide there should be a diagram pointing out the locations of the anchors if the car is equipped with them.
Back to LATCH. What is it and how does it work?
LATCH stands for L
nchors and T
ethers for Ch
ildren. As the name indicates, it is a system that uses tethers that catch onto specific anchors to secure the child's seat. In order to use this system you must check that both the car seat and the automobile seat have the LATCH system installed. Once that is determined you can begin the installation.
- The first thing to look for are the tethers, usually located at the back of the car seat base
- Make sure you understand how to use the latch at the end of the tethers
- Locate the anchors for the tethers. These are typically located at the bottom of the vehicle's seat, and in the case of a forward facing car seat (ie. a high back booster seat), there will be one on the back dashboard or on floor behind the seat if you have a trunk/well area in the back of your vehicle, or even attached to the ceiling.
- Be sure that the opening of the latch clip is facing to the car floor to ensure proper security
- Clip the latches at the end of the tethers from both sides of the car seat onto the anchors in the vehicle's seat so that the "catch" is complete (you will hear a click)
- If it's a forward facing car seat do the same for the tether at the top (usually attached to the back of the car seat)
- Be sure to tighten the tethers as much as possible
- Put your baby in the seat, buckle him up, and enjoy the ride!
Regardless of which method you use (seat belt or LATCH) be sure that the seat does not have more than one inch wiggle room where it is connected to the vehicle seat (more room is normal for the side end of the seat toward the front of the car). It is a wise idea to actually try out the seat in your car before buying it to be sure that it fits properly.
Share helpful tips on car seat installation with the other moms here.