The LATCH (Lower Anchors and Tethers for Children) system was created to make it easier for parents and caregivers to properly install child safety seats without using seatbelts; however, only three vehicles received good ratings by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) for their ease of use. The LATCH system includes built-in straps and hooks on the child safety seat and anchor hardware in the vehicle. When utilizing LATCH, the LATCH anchors and attachments take the place of seatbelts.
Although the system was designed to make proper car seat installation easier, an IIHS researcher reports that parents often struggle to locate the anchors in the seat as well as attach the safety seat to them. Moreover, studies have found that parents and caregivers frequently install safety seats improperly, resulting in the seat not being secured tightly or securely.
LATCH Rating System
The IIHS developed a new LATCH rating system intended for families to have as a resource when considering a new car purchase. The IIHS based the ratings on five criteria with the first three focusing on the lower anchors, which are usually found between the seatback and the bottom seat cushion. It is not uncommon that LATCH lower anchors are often difficult to access, especially when they are set deep or are too closely surrounded by seatback cushioning. The last two criteria focus on the tethers that are usually located on the vehicle’s rear deck or seatback.
Vehicles received a good rating if the two LATCH positions met all five criteria, in addition to having a third tether anchor that is easy to utilize. Vehicles ratings subsequently dropped to acceptable, marginal and poor as they met fewer requirements for tether anchors and lower anchors. It is important to note that the rating system measured ease of use, and poor ratings did not suggest a child is unsafe in that particular vehicle. Poor ratings may indicate that caregivers and parents may find it difficult to locate and use the LATCH hardware. In the first round of testing completed by the IIHS only three vehicles were recognized with overall good ratings for their LATCH hardware, and of the rest 44 were acceptable, 45 were marginal and 10 were poor. The complete list of vehicle ratings can be found on the IIHS website.
IIHS anticipates by officially rating the LATCH hardware, the results will provide an essential resource for parents and caregivers and may encourage vehicle manufactures to make improvements so child safety seats can be simple to install. Furthermore, improving seat installation for caregivers will increase child passenger safety.
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