Not all LATCHes are created equal. A standard setup of connections for child car seats –referred to as LATCH–has been required by the federal government since 2002. Now comes a study that shows not all car manufacturers make it easy for parents to use those connections so they can properly install car seats.
LATCH stands for “Lower Anchors and Tethers for Children”. It refers to the anchors in the fold where the seatback meets the seat bottom cushion and a top tether that connects the top of the child seat to an anchor located on the car’s rear shelf, seatback, floor, cargo area or ceiling. The whole point of the LATCH requirement was to make it easier to install child seats in vehicles.
The insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) just evaluated more than 100 vehicles with LATCH hardware. Only 3 vehicles earned a good rating for ease of use. More than half have hardware that IIHS rated as poor or marginal.
The 3 vehicles that received a good rating are the BMW 5 series, Mercedes-Benz GL-Class and the Volkswagen Passat.
The vehicles that received a poor rating are the Chevrolet Silverado 1500, Ford Fiesta, GMC Sierra 1500, Hyundai Accent, lexus ES, Mazda 6, Nissan Altima, Toyota Sienna, Toyota Tundra, and Volkswagen Jetta.
Keep in mind that the rating is only for ease-of-use. The IIHS says that even vehicles that rated “poor” are safe if used properly. But the thinking is that parents are more likely to install the seat correctly when the LATCH hardware meets certain key ease-of-use criteria. So the new IIHS ratings are intended as a resource for families looking for a car that makes it easy to transport their children safely and to encourage car manufacturers to make better LATCH hardware.