<3% of IIHS-Tested LATCH Hardware Earns "Good" Rating

Less than three percent! Three! Before we get high on our “the American people deserve better” horse, let’s break down the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety‘s (IIHS) evaluation and rating process.

LATCH (Lower Anchors and Tethers for Children) is a system designed to make it easier to install a child seat properly. Studies have shown that child restraints installed with LATCH, rather than with vehicle safety belts, are more likely to be installed correctly according to IIHS.

“LATCH is meant to simplify child seat installations, but it doesn’t always succeed,” says Jessica Jermakian, an IIHS senior research scientist. “Parents often struggle to locate the anchors in the vehicle or find it’s difficult to attach the seats to them. We believe fixing these problems will make the task less frustrating for parents and increase the likelihood that children will ride in properly installed seats.”

IIHS states that, “Child restraints can be installed with lower anchors or safety belts. A top tether should be used with every forward-facing child restraint, whether it is secured using the safety belt or using the lower anchors.”

The Test

Under new criteria, in order to qualify as “good,” two LATCH positions must meet all five criteria, and a third tether anchor also must be easy to use. The criteria includes:

  • The lower anchors are no more than 3/4 inch deep in the seat bight.
  • The lower anchors are easy to maneuver around. This is defined as having a clearance angle greater than 54 degrees.
  • The force required to attach a standardized tool to the lower anchors is less than 40 pounds. (The tool represents a lower connector of a child seat, though the actual force required when installing a seat varies depending on the specific connector.)
  • Tether anchors are on the vehicle’s rear deck or on the top 85 percent of the seatback. They shouldn’t be at the very bottom of the seatback, under the seat, on the ceiling or on the floor.
  • The area where the tether anchor is found doesn’t have any other hardware that could be confused for the tether anchor. If other hardware is present, then the tether anchor must have a clear label located within 3 inches of it.

For an acceptable rating, two LATCH positions must each meet at least 2 of the 3 requirements for lower anchors and at least 1 of the 2 tether anchor requirements. If either position meets neither of the tether anchor requirements or meets only one of the lower anchor requirements, then the vehicle is marginal. If even fewer criteria are met, the vehicle is poor.

The IIHS ratings are based on the best two LATCH positions available in the vehicle’s second row.

That doesn’t seem like too much to ask from your automobile’s manufacturer, right?

The Results

IIHS tested 102 current vehicle models using the established LATCH criteria. The three that achieved a “good” rating include:

  • BMW 5 series
  • Mercedes-Benz GL-Class
  • Volkswagen Passat, a midsize car.

Of the rest, 44 are acceptable, 45 are marginal, and 10 are poor.

IIHS notes that the vehicle they see as the most glaring failure is the Toyota Sienna, a vehicle usually purchased to haul around families.

Find a Rating & LATCH-Equipped Seating Positions

IIHS recommends vehicle owners and new vehicle buyers read their online ratings information, which is designed to help consumers understand exactly why a vehicle gets the rating it does. Their site includes, “a diagram for each vehicle shows the location of all LATCH-equipped seating positions and which criteria those positions meet and which they miss. The location of extra tether anchors, for use with restraints attached with vehicle safety belts, is also shown.”

“Even if you’re not in the market for a new vehicle, our ratings can be a helpful source of information about a vehicle you already own,” Jermakian says. “We’re essentially providing you with a map of where child seats can be installed most easily in your vehicle, including the specific hardware available for each seating position.”

Seating configurations and LATCH hardware can vary depending on the trim level or type of seats. The rating details indicate which specific vehicle was measured.

IIHS LATCH System

 

image and graphic courtesy of IIHS
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