IIHS Says Most LATCH and Tether Systems Not User Friendly

Most LATCH (Lower Anchors and Tethers for Children) systems for installing child safety seats are hard to use, a new report says. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) and University of Michigan Transportation Research Institute (UMTRI) tested the top 98 selling passenger cars in 2010-2011 for ease of use, and while all of them met the minimum regulations, only 21 were found to be user friendly.

"Installing a child restraint isn't always as simple as a couple of clicks and you're done," Anne McCartt, the Institute's senior vice president for research and one of the report's authors said in a release. "Sometimes parents blame themselves when they struggle with LATCH, but oftentimes the problem lies with the vehicle, not the user."

The three criteria used to determine the ease of use for the LATCH system test include the proper depth of the lower anchors (should be no more than three-quarters of an inch in the seat bight), adequate clearance around the anchors from seat buckles or the seat itself, and the level of force required to connect the LATCH to the child safety seat (40 pounds of force or less being ideal).

Researchers also found that top tethers for forward-facing child seats were often not used or used incorrectly. Tethers anchor child seats to the rear shelf, seat back, floor, or ceiling to prevent them from moving forward during a crash.

2011 models that meet all 3 easy-installation criteria

  • Audi A4 Quattro
  • Cadillac Escalade
  • Chevrolet Equinox LT
  • Chevrolet Silverado 1500 crew cab
  • Chevrolet Suburban LT
  • Chevrolet Tahoe LS
  • Chrysler Town & Country (2010)
  • Dodge Caliber Mainstreet
  • Dodge Grand Caravan Crew
  • Dodge Ram 1500 crew cab
  • Ford Escape XLT
  • Ford F-150 SuperCrew Cab
  • GMC Sierra 1500 crew cab SLE
  • Honda Pilot EX-L
  • Kia Sedona LX
  • Land Rover Range Rover Sport
  • Mercedes-Benz C300
  • Mercedes-Benz E350
  • Mitsubishi Eclipse coupe GS
  • Mitsubishi Lancer ES
  • Toyota Tacoma extended cab
2011 models that don't meet any easy-installation criteria
  • Buick Enclave CX
  • Chevrolet Impala LT
  • Dodge Avenger Express
  • Ford Flex SEL
  • Ford Taurus Limited
  • Hyundai Sonata Limited
  • Toyota Sienna XLE
Source: IIHS

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