Child Seats Too Hard to Install, Automakers to Blame Says IIHS Study

Amy Tokic
by Amy Tokic

It’s been a decade since the federal government required that all passenger vehicles have the LATCH system for car seats – and most parents still can’t figure out how it works.

According to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS), parents who want to keep their kids safe are finding it difficult to properly install child restraints in vehicles using the Lower Anchors and Tethers for Children (LATCH for short). If you’ve cursed under your breath trying to figure out how it works, you can thank the automakers for your frustration. A report released by the IIHS and the University of Michigan Transportation Research Institute states that automakers design seats in ways that make LATCH difficult to use.

“Installing a child restraint isn’t always as simple as a couple of clicks and you’re done,” said Anne McCartt, IIHS senior vice president for research. “Sometimes parents blame themselves when they struggle with LATCH, but oftentimes the problem lies with the vehicle, not the user.”

This report drew its findings from a test of 98 top-selling 2010-11 model passenger vehicles that found only 21 have LATCH designs that are easy to use. Out of the 98, only seven had LATCH anchors in the middle of the second-row seats, which are deemed the safest place for children to travel. Researchers identified three factors associated with correct lower anchor use: depth, clearance and force.

Required in all passenger vehicles since the 2003 model year, the LATCH system was created to increase the number of children who ride properly restrained by making child restraints easier to install. From the results of this study, it’s clear that the system needs more work to become more parent-friendly.

Do you have issues installing child restraints using the LATCH system? Share your thoughts in the comments section below. And you can check out a list of vehicles and how they ranked after the jump.

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

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