What does the LATCH system do and where is it used? LATCH (Lower Anchors and Tethers for Children) is the fastening method for child restraint systems used in the United States. It is similar to the ISOFIX system used in Europe. The main objective is to guarantee the safety of its installation and to avoid making mistakes.
Although both the LATCH and ISOFIX systems guarantee optimum safety, it should be remembered that they are not interchangeable i.e. you should not use a car seat with ISOFIX anchor points with LATCH anchors or vice versa. Each seat is designed to use the corresponding anchor points.
You can recognize the LATCH system by the following logo:
Vehicles sold in the United States and that have been manufactured since 1 September 2002 are equipped with this important safety system in two of the rear seats. Thus you are able to choose between securing the child seat with the LATCH system or with the seat belt. As with the ISOFIX system, child restraint systems intended for older children (booster seats) usually need to be anchored using the seat belt or else a combination of both.
In common with the European system, the American one has three anchor points:
- Two lower anchor points attached to the seats (normally in the two rear ones). They are positioned in the base of the seat where it joins the backrest. Child seats adapted to the LATCH system have two flexible hooks that must clip onto the two anchor points. The seats that are usually fitted with these anchor points are the two rear lateral seats.
- One top tether anchor. Most forward-facing child seats have a top tether that hooks onto this anchor. Conversely, rear-facing child seats do not have a top tether.
In all cases it is advisable to read the vehicle manual to find the exact location of the three hooks as well as the child seat manual, following its instructions to avoid any possible mistakes when installing it. We remind you that, in order to guarantee your child's safety, it is vital that the child seat is well anchored and fastened, as otherwise it will not hold the child in securely in the event of a crash.
For all these reasons, it is very important to check that the safety seat does not move more than two centimeters to the front or sides.
You should also bear in mind that the majority of child seat manufacturers establish weight limits, just like in Europe. It is therefore inadvisable to exceed the recommended weight and to move on to a different seat if the child is heavier (here are two different types of CRS used in the United States and the regulations that apply in each state).
The following NHTSA video shows how to install a rear-facing child seat using the LATCH system:
And this next one gives guidelines on installing a forward-facing child seat equipped with the LATCH system:
Find out how to install other child seats following NHTSA advice.