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Automaker LATCH System Ratings Improving, Says IIHS

Automaker LATCH System Ratings Improving, Says IIHS

By Joseph Dobrian, September 06, 2016
According to the latest ratings of various new car, truck, SUV, and van models’ Lower Anchors and Tethers for Children (LATCH) systems by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS), more vehicles are earning “Good” or “Acceptable” ratings than in the survey published a year ago. Out of 102 models rated in June 2015, more than half were rated “Poor” or “Marginal.” The IIHS rated 170 current models for 2016, and more than half are “Good” or “Acceptable.” Three models—the Audi Q7, Lexus RX, and Toyota Prius—earn the brand-new top rating of “Good+.”

According to the IIHS, child restraints installed with LATCH are more likely to be put in correctly than restraints installed using the vehicle safety belt. The Institute's ratings are based on key ease-of-use criteria that have been shown to minimize mistakes.

“Frustrating child seat installations have become a familiar rite of parenthood,” says Jessica Jermakian, an IIHS senior research engineer. “Unfortunately, these frustrations lead to mistakes that can have real consequences in the event of a crash. We're pleased to see automakers taking this issue seriously and making improvements in response to our ratings.”

LATCH hardware earns an IIHS “Good” rating if it meets the following criteria:
  • The lower anchors are no more than ¾ inch deep within the seat bight or slightly deeper if there is open access around them.
  • The lower anchors are easy to maneuver around. This is defined as having a clearance angle greater than 54 degrees.
  • The force required to attach a standardized tool representing a child seat connector to the lower anchors is less than 40 lbs.
  • Tether anchors are on the vehicle's rear deck or on the top 85% of the seatback. They shouldn't be at the very bottom of the seatback, under the seat, on the ceiling, or on the floor.
  • The area where the tether anchor is found doesn't have any other hardware that could be confused for the tether anchor. If other hardware is present, then the tether anchor must have a clear label located within 3 inches of it.

To earn a “Good” rating, two LATCH positions in the second row must meet all five of those criteria, and a third tether anchor must meet both tether criteria. The “Good+” rating is for vehicles that meet the criteria for a “Good” rating and provide additional LATCH-equipped seating positions. For a two-row vehicle, that means having a third “Good” or “Acceptable” LATCH seating position. The third position may use either dedicated anchors, or anchors borrowed from other positions. (In many vehicles that have lower anchors in the second-row outboard seating positions, LATCH can be used in the center position by borrowing one anchor from each side.)

For a 3-row vehicle to earn a “Good+” rating, it must have one additional “Good” or “Acceptable” LATCH position (without borrowing) and tether anchors in all rear seating positions. The additional tether anchors must meet at least one of the two tether anchor criteria. If the vehicle has a second-row center seating position, it must have good or acceptable LATCH there (with or without borrowing). The “Good+” designation, says IIHS, is intended to encourage manufacturers to give parents greater flexibility when seating children in a vehicle.

“We're especially interested in making it possible for more parents to use LATCH in the second-row center position,” Jermakian said. “Parents are repeatedly told that is the safest place for children to ride, so we want them to have the option of an easy installation there.”

The second-row center is safest because it's far from the hard surfaces of the vehicle interior and from the striking vehicle in a side crash. However, a properly restrained child is very safe in any rear seating position. Unfortunately, vehicle seats are too often designed in a way that make it difficult to work with LATCH anchors, which can get buried in the seat, and are sometimes hard to maneuver, requiring considerable force to engage. Top tether anchor locations can be hard to find, or may have confusing labeling. IIHS evaluations measure these factors to encourage more dependable product performance.

In addition to the three “Good+” ratings mentioned above, models with “Good”-rated LATCH systems include:

  • 2017 Audi A4
  • 2016 Audi A6
  • 2016 BMW 2 Series
  • 2016 BMW 5 Series
  • 2016 Mercedes-Benz C-Class
  • 2016 Mercedes-Benz E-Class
  • 2016 Mercedes-Benz GL-Class
  • 2016 Mercedes-Benz GLE-Class
  • 2016 Volkswagen Passat

Also, 77 models receive an “Acceptable” rating, while 81 are “Marginal” or “Poor.”

For a complete listing of IIHS LATCH ratings, please visit

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