The designs of the rear seats in cars affects whether child safety seats, aka car seats, can be installed correctly in vehicles. Less than 25 percent of the top-selling cars have rear seats and lower tethers and anchors, or LATCH, designs that are easy for parents and caregivers to properly install a car seat, according to a new study by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, or IIHS, and the University of Michigan Transportation Research Institute, or UMTRI. LATCH was introduced in cars in the 2003 model year and was created to make child safety seats easier to install properly.
IIHS/UMTRI researchers found that 21 of the 98 best-selling cars it assessed had the three key criteria that made the LATCH system easy to use. It found that these cars were 19 times more likely to have the LATCH lower anchors used correctly by the volunteers participating in the study compared with the cars that did not meet any of the criteria.
Common problems the researchers found included that the LATCH lower anchors are sometimes obscured by the seat belt buckles, the plastic covers for the LATCH system themselves or by the seat. In some cases LATCH lower anchors weren't visible or were buried so deep in between the vehicle seat bottom and back that it required excessive force to use them.
Additionally, researchers noted that just 7 of the 98 cars studied had dedicated LATCH lower anchors in the center of the second row, even though that is the safest place for a child to sit in a vehicle. Nine of the cars studied allowed use of the anchors from the outboard seats to secure a child safety seat in the center, while 82 had no center anchors at all.
Tara Baukus Mello writes the cars blog as well as the weekly Driving for Dollars column, providing both practical financial advice for consumers as well as insight into the latest developments in the automotive world. Follow her on Facebook here or on Twitter @SheDrives.