Beginning September 1, 2002, the US Department of Transportation’s National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) will require new child safety seats to have a specialised way of attaching to a vehicle seat.

Lower Anchors and Tethers for Children (LATCH) is a restraint system designed to work independently of the vehicle seat belt system to simplify child safety seat installation and reduce misuse.

Since September 1, 2000, all vehicle manufacturers have been required to install a top tether anchor in vehicles sold in the US.  In addition, vehicle manufacturers were required to begin installing lower anchors in at least two rear seating positions in nearly all new passenger vehicles.

All new passenger vehicles manufactured after September 1, 2002 will have the LATCH system.  Also, most child safety seats will be required to have a lower set of attachments that fasten to these vehicle anchors.  Most forward-facing child safety seats also have a top strap (top tether) that attaches to a tether anchor in the vehicle.  Together, they make up the LATCH system.

NHTSA estimates that as many as 80% of child safety seats are incorrectly used.  The agency also estimates that the LATCH system will eliminate as much as half of the misuse associated with the improper installation of child safety seats.

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