L.A.T.C.H. stands for Lower Anchors and Tethers for Children. It was introduced in the early 2000's as a different way of installing child safety seats without having to use vehicle seat belts.
Child safety seats with LATCH are equipped with flexible or rigid anchors that attach to rigid anchors in the vehicle. The rigid vehicle anchors are located at the junction of the vehicle seat back and bottom.
Rear-facing only child safety seats (infant-only) have lower anchors on the detachable base. If there is no base, the lower anchors will be on the child safety seat itself. These seats will not have top tethers.
Child safety seats that can change from rear-facing to forward-facing will have lower anchors and top tether straps. The top tethers are usually only used when these child safety seats are used forward-facing.
Child safety seats that can only be used forward-facing will have lower anchors and top tethers. Top tethers help child safety seats from moving too far forward in a crash.
Booster seats are not required to have LATCH since the vehicle shoulder/lap belt restrains the child. Some; however, do have LATCH so that the booster won't move around on the vehicle seat.
Rigid lower vehicle anchors are only required to be in two vehicle seating positions, which are generally outboard positions. Top tether anchor hardware is required in three seating positions, of which two also have lower anchors. Some, but not all vehicles will allow installation with LATCH in a middle seating position. Always read your vehicle owner's manual to learn where the lower anchors and top tether hardware are located in your vehicle.
LATCH and tethers can only be used until a child reaches a certain weight. Check your vehicle owner's manual and car seat instructions for weight limits. If you can't find the information, assume a 40 pound limit.
The resource manual, “LATCH: Lower Anchors and Tethers for Children, 2013” is a comprehensive resource on tethers and LATCH and provides details about specific child safety seats and vehicle manufacturers. For more information on the manual, contact 800-403-1424 or www.saferidenews.com.