For those of you currently with children, LATCH is something you’re undoubtedly familiar with. For those uninitiated into the joy-inducing world of securing and transporting young children in your vehicle, LATCH is the acronym for Lower Anchors and Tether for Children – the standard restraint system for your child seat. The LATCH system was mandated by the US federal government at the end of 2002 in an effort to standardize and simplify the installation of child restraints.
In order to be considered a LATCH system, the vehicle and the child safety seat must be LATCH-equipped. All vehicles and child seats manufactured on or after September 1st, 2002, are required to be equipped with the LATCH system.
The LATCH system exists to ensure that child safety seats are secured properly, that’s not to say alder vehicles not equipped with LATCH aren’t safe anymore. LATCH is just supposed to take eliminate the chances of incorrect installation. The reality of it is that proper installation of LATCH systems is not always as easy as you would hope, so the IIHS has devised a five-criteria rating system to evaluate 102 vehicles. Surprisingly, only three vehicles received top marks for ease of use, while more than half have hardware that’s considered poor or marginal.
The current LATCH mandate requires that the two rear seats must have both the lower and tether anchor, while the the third seat (if available), must at least have the tether anchor.
The first three criteria focus on the lower anchors usually located between the seatback and the bottom seat cushion. This area is referred to by the IIHS as the “seat bite”. In order to be considered easy to access, the anchors in the seat bite should be no more than 3/4 of an inch deep, should also have a clearance angle greater than 54 degrees and shouldn’t require more than 40 lbs of force to attach a connector.
The final two criteria focus on the tether anchors usually located on the rear seatdeck or seatback. Anchors should be on the reardeck or the top 85 percent of the seatback. Anchors shouldn’t be on the ceiling, floor or too low on the seatback. The anchors should be clearly marked or easy to find.
If a vehicle has at least two LATCH systems that meet all five criteria, the IIHS awards them the “good” rating. Only five vehicles to win the good rating are the Mercedes-Benz GL-Class, BMW 5 Series, and the Volkswagen Passat.
To earn an “acceptable” rating, the IIHS requires a vehicle to have a LATCH system that meets two of the three anchor points and at least one of the two tether points. Out of the 102 vehicles tested, 44 vehicles earned the acceptable rating, including the Acura MDX, Ford Edge, Mazda3, Nissan Versa, Mercedes-Benz E-Class, Toyota Camry, Honda Civic, Jeep Cherokee, Honda Odyssey, Chrysler Town & Country, Dodge Grand Caravan, Kia Sedona, and more.
If either position meets neither of the tether anchor requirements or meets only one of the lower anchor requirements, then the IIHS rates the vehicle “marginal”. Vehicles to earnt eh marginal rating include the BMW 3 Series, Ford Escape, Subaru Impreza, Toyota Corolla, Honda Accord, Volvo V60, and more.
If a vehicle does not meet any of the criteria, needless to say, the IIHS awards it the the “poor” rating. 10 vehicles received the poor rating, surprisingly including the Toyota Sienna – a family oriented vehicle if there ever was one. Other vehicles with the poor rating include the, Hyundai Accent, Nissan Altima, Ford Fiesta, Lexus ES, Volkswagen Jetta, Mazda6 and more.
Now please keep in mind, just because a vehicle receives a “poor” rating, it doesn’t mean your child is unsafe. It just means the LATCH system is difficult to install correctly, so if your vehicle is rated acceptable, marginal or poor, please consider taking your vehicle to a professional to verify you have been securing your child and their seat safely.
For the full list of vehicles and their ratings, please visit the IIHS site here.
April 30, 2013
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