Since 2002, cars sold in the U.S. have been required to incorporate hardware making it easier to safely install child seats. But new tests by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety have found that only three out of more than a hundred cars tested scored well for this hardware.
LATCH hardware, which stands for Lower Anchors and Tethers for Children, includes anchors where the seat back meets the cushion. Child seats can be installed using either these anchors or a traditional seatbelt, but the former choice has been shown to keep children safer during the approximately six million car accidents that take place each year across the country — if used correctly.
“LATCH is meant to simplify child seat installations, but it doesn’t always succeed,” Jessica Jermakian, an IIHS senior research scientist, explained in a June 18 news release. “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.”
With the goal of helping parents choose vehicles with easy-to-use LATCH hardware, the IIHS rated 102 vehicles on a scale of “good+” to “poor” for their LATCH systems.
Of the vehicles rated, only the BMW 5 series, the Mercedes-Benz GL class and the Volkswagen Passat earned a rating of good, with most falling into the acceptable or marginal range.
Ten vehicles — the Chevrolet Silverado 1500, the Ford Fiesta, the GMC Sieraa 1500, the Hyundai Accent, the Lexus ES, the Mazda 6, the Nissan Altima, the Toyota Sienna, the Toyota Tundra and the Volkswagen Jetta — were rated as poor.
No vehicles earned a good+ rating.
While emphasizing that the ratings address only ease of use, and not effectiveness (although low ease of use could lead to improper installation), the institute expressed the hope that the report would encourage auto manufacturers to improve LATCH hardware in future model years.