This past year the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety issued its first ease-of-use ratings for LATCH hardware in vehicles.
These LATCH ratings are meant to serve as a resource for families looking at buying a new vehicle while weighing its safety features for transporting their children.
While it is safe to install a car seat using the vehicle’s seat belt system, LATCH (or Lower Anchors and Tether for Children) was created with the intention to make installing a car seat easier for parents. The continued high rate of incorrect installations of car seats shows that this intent has not been as successful as hoped.
IIHS found that lower anchors are often treated as an afterthought by vehicle manufacturers so they are hoping the ratings will encourage them to pay more attention to the hardware.
The institute found that only 3 vehicles out of the 102 they rated earned a good rating. Of the rest, 44 are acceptable, 45 are marginal, and 10 are poor.
To earn a “good” rating, two LATCH positions must meet all five of the following criteria :
- Depth of lower anchors within the seat bight. Lower anchors located at a depth of about ¾ inch or less are considered easy to find.
- Force. A special tool representing the lower connector of a child seat is used to measure the attachment force required. The force to attach this tool should be under 40 pounds.
- Clearance angle. Anything greater than 54 degrees is considered easy to maneuver around.
- Location of tether anchor. Tether anchors should be 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.
- Confusing hardware. 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 contrasting label located within 3 inches of it.
IIHS found that parents are more likely to install the car seat correctly when the LATCH hardware meets the qualifications for a “good” rating.