IIHS study finds most LATCH systems lacking

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Latch anchors

A study by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety found the LATCH systems in most cars don't make it easy to install child seats. Photo Credit: Tetris L/Wikimedia Commons/CC-BY-SA

A study by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety has concluded that only about one in five cars are easy to install a car seat in. The survey, carried out in conjunction with the University of Michigan, found most car makers don’t install the LATCH anchor system very well.

Mandated yet frustrating

In 2002, according to USA Today, a law was passed mandating all car makers incorporate an anchor and tether system in the rear seats of cars to better secure children’s car seats. It’s called LATCH, or Lower Anchor and Tethers for Children.

A number of parents have noticed car seats aren’t always easy to install properly, despite LATCH systems. Profanity often ensues. However, a study by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety and the University of Michigan has found installation difficulties aren’t usually the fault of the person trying to install the seat.

Most cars not compatible with car seats

The study, by the IIHS and the University of Michigan’s Transportation Research Institute, found that most of the cars tested, all 2011 models, did not make it easy to install child seats.

The survey was conducted by having 36 volunteers try to install three types of car seat in a selection of 12 cars. Ninety-eight models in total were tested, and all subjects have previous experience with car seats, according to Today.

[How do I get someone to buy my car?]

The criteria for determining ease of installation was whether lower seat anchors, metal tabs attached to the frame of the seat, were easily visible, accessible and could be engaged without the use of considerable force. Of the 98 tested vehicles, 36 had visible lower seat anchors. Most had seat belt anchors and other things in the way. In total, the IIHS study found 21 of 98 vehicles met all three criteria for easy installation for a child seat and seven didn’t meet any.

Lacking center tabs

The study also found that seven vehicles tested had a pair if LATCH anchors in the center seat of the rear seat bench and 16 had three or more pairs of lower seat anchors. Just 10 had more than three upper-seat tethers. The National Highway Safety Administration requires only two pairs of lower seat anchors and three upper seat tethers.

User error does occur

However, the survey also found most people weren’t diligent in using the upper tether, straps which attach to the rear of the car seat and are essential for proper safety during a crash. Upper tethers were attached by volunteers only 48 percent of the time. Of those who bothered with the top tether, 54 percent of subjects incorrectly attached them. In total, only 13 percent of volunteers were able to correctly install a car seat by engaging the lower anchors and upper tethers.


USA Today



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