On June 18, 2015, the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) released new ease of use ratings for LATCH. The most important point is that this is not a safety rating in any way, shape, or form. IIHS is merely discussing the ease of use and accessibility in 2015 vehicles. If you’ve ever spent 20 minutes in the back seat shoving your fingers into the seat bight looking for the lower anchor that you KNOW IS THERE, you know that not all lower anchors are visible to the naked eye. The same applies to looking high and low for a tether anchor behind the seat that the car’s manual assures you is back there somewhere.
What is LATCH? LATCH is an acronym for Lower Anchors And Tethers for CHildren. Lower anchors are an alternative to seat belt installation for car seats in passenger vehicles. It does have varying weight limits, so is not always an appropriate installation method. Tether anchors should be used for all forward facing car seats to reduce head excursion and lower injury risk in children.
The IIHS information is meant as a way to rate ease of use and accessibility of LATCH in new vehicles. They did not rate vehicles prior to the 2015 model year. The purpose of the report is to encourage car manufacturers to see the difficulty that some parents are having when using LATCH for car seat installation.
The report gives 4 different ratings for LATCH. Good, Acceptable, Marginal, and Poor. You can read the entire release, along with what defines a Good rating here. If you have a vehicle that got a Marginal or Poor rating, DON’T PANIC!
The picture at the start of the article is of a 2015 Hyundai Sonata, which was given a Marginal rating. It’s easy to see, but that cover on the lower anchors can make it difficult to reach and attach a lower anchor connector.
The picture to the right is a 2005 Buick Century. The outboard lower anchors are difficult to spot. However, the middle lower anchors are pretty visible without any digging. Note: it’s rare for a vehicle to have lower anchors in all three positions in a sedan.
This report is certainly something to take into account, but it is not the only consideration when looking for a vehicle
For example, The Town and Country scored Acceptable on this release, but experience has shown us that it’s not the best choice of vehicle if you have more than 2 kids. Why? Because it only has one set of offset LATCH in the middle of the third row. With offset LATCH, if you use the lower anchors to install, you use up both the middle seat and the driver side outboard seat, thus losing a seating position. We also know that this particular vehicle provides a poor belt fit for the outboard seats in the third row so might not be an ideal choice despite being given a Good rating for LATCH. These ratings are just one piece of the pie when considering a new vehicle.
We should also note that using the seatbelt to install a seat is perfectly acceptable. One method of installation is not safer than the other, provided you can obtain a good
Originally written by Kim Robinson. Edits maintained by CSFTL.