Car seats may be installed with either the vehicle's seat belt or LATCH
(lower anchors and tethers for children) system.
What is LATCH?
LATCH is an attachment system for car seats. Lower anchors can be used instead of the seat belt to install the seat, and many parents find them easier to use in some cars. The top tether improves safety provided by the seat and is important to use for all forward-facing seats, even those installed using the vehicle seat belt. The seat belt and LATCH systems are equally safe, but in some cases it may be easier to install the car seat using one or the other.
Vehicles with the LATCH system have lower anchors located in the back seat, where the seat cushions meet. Tether anchors are located behind the seat, either on the panel behind the seat (in sedans) or back of the seat, ceiling, or floor (in most minivans, SUVs, hatchbacks, and pickup trucks). All car seats have attachments that fasten to these anchors. Nearly all passenger vehicles and all car seats made on or after September 1, 2002, are equipped to use LATCH.
All lower anchors are rated for a maximum weight of 65 pounds (total weight includes car seat and child). Parents should check the car seat manufacturer's recommendations for maximum weight a child can be to use lower anchors. New car seats have the maximum weight printed on their label.
If You Install a Car Seat Using Your Vehicle's Seat Belt:
You must make sure the seat belt locks to help get a tight fit. In most newer cars, you can lock the seat belt by pulling it all the way out and then allowing it to retract to keep the seat belt tight around the car seat. Additionally, many car seats have built-in lock-offs to lock the belt without having to separately lock the seat belt as well. Refer to the vehicle owner's manual for details about how your seat belt locks.
Middle of the back seat: The safest place to ride for all children younger than 13 years is the back seat. If possible, it may be best to ride in the middle of the back seat. However, it is sometimes difficult to install a car seat tightly in the middle if the vehicle seat is narrow or uneven. Also, most vehicles do not have lower anchors for the middle seating position. It is safest to put the car seat in a position where you can install it tightly with either the lower anchor system or seat belt; in some cases, this may be on either side of the back seat rather than the middle. A child passenger safety technician (CPST) can help you decide which place is best to install your child's car seat in your vehicle.
If You Need Installation Help:
If you have questions or need help installing your car seat, find a certified child passenger safety technician (CPST). Lists of certified CPSTs and child seat–fitting stations are available on the following Web sites:
Additional Information from HealthyChildren.org:
Article image adapted from National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. LATCH Makes Child Safety Seat Installation as Easy as 1-2-3. 2011. DOT HS publication 809 489. Published March 2011. Accessed November 5, 2015.