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IIHS Creates Rating System for LATCH Restraints, Finds Most Hard to Use

Motor Trend logo Motor Trend 6/18/2015 Erick Ayapana

Drivers who have to shuttle around children are undoubtedly familiar with LATCH -- the child restraint system that stands for Lower Anchors and Tether for Children. Required in vehicles for over a decade, the LATCH system ensures that child seats are properly secured, though installing them may not always be easy. In fact, the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety evaluated over 100 vehicles and only three got top marks for ease of use.

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The IIHS based its ratings on five criteria. The first three focuse on the lower anchors, usually found between the seatback and the bottom seat cushion, an area the IIHS refers to as the “seat bight.” Here, the anchors shouldn’t be more than 3/4 of an inch deep into the seat bight. They should also be easy to access (having a clearance angle greater than 54 degrees) and shouldn’t require more than 40 pounds of force to attach a connector. MotorTrend Image© Provided by MotorTrend MotorTrend Image

The last two criteria focus on the tether anchors that are usually found on the vehicle’s rear deck or seatback. Here, the anchors shouldn’t be on the ceiling, the floor, or too low on the seatback. The anchor should also be easy to find or clearly marked if it’s surrounded by other hardware.

Current mandates require that two rear seats must have both the lower and tether anchor. A third seat (if available), must at least have the tether anchor.

The IIHS awarded a “good” rating to vehicles with at least two LATCH systems that met all five criteria. Those vehicles include the BMW 5 Series, Mercedes-Benz GL-Class, and the Volkswagen Passat.

To earn an “acceptable” rating, two LATCH systems must meet two of the three lower anchor criteria and one of the two tether requirements. The rating drops to “marginal” if one lower anchor requirement is achieved and neither tether tests are met. A poor rating is given if no criteria are met.

In addition to the three “good-“ rated vehicles, 44 earn “acceptable” including the Toyota Camry, Honda Civic, and Jeep Cherokee. The Toyota Sienna was one of 10 vehicles to earn a “poor” rating, which is notable since families with children are the main demographic for minivans. The Honda Odyssey, Chrysler Town & Country, Dodge Grand Caravan, and Kia Sedona both earned “acceptable” ratings, while the Nissan Quest was rated as “marginal.”

It should be noted that properly installed LATCH systems are still effective, regardless of their ease of use rating. See the full results HERE.

Source: IIHS

IIHS Child Safety Seat Install 1© Provided by MotorTrend IIHS Child Safety Seat Install 1
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