Only 3 vehicles of more than 100 evaluated by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety have child restraint installation hardware that earns a good rating for ease of use, while more than half have hardware that is poor or marginal.
The Institute's new LATCH ratings will serve as a resource for families looking for a vehicle that makes it easy to transport their children safely. They also are intended to encourage vehicle manufacturers to pay attention to this equipment and make improvements. Properly installed, age-appropriate child restraints provide considerably more protection for children in crashes than safety belts alone. However, observational studies have found that parents and caregivers often fail to secure them tightly or make other installation mistakes.
LATCH, which stands for Lower Anchors and Tethers for Children, is intended to make it easier to install a child seat properly. It works: Child restraints installed with LATCH, rather than with vehicle safety belts, are more likely to be installed correctly, research has shown. But in many vehicles, LATCH hardware could be better. Parents are more likely to install the seat correctly when the LATCH hardware meets certain key ease-of-use criteria.