What a difference a year makes.
The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) says it's now a lot easier to secure your child in a late-model vehicle than it was just 12 months ago.
In the institute's LATCH ease-of-use ratings of child seat installation hardware in vehicles for June 2015, the majority of the 102 vehicles rated were poor or marginal. This year, a total of 170 current models were evaluated, and most were good or acceptable. In fact, three models -- the Audi Q7, the Lexus RX, and the Toyota Prius -- earn the top rating of good+, a distinction that no vehicle achieved last year.
LATCH, which stands for Lower Anchors and Tethers for Children, is intended to make it easier for caregivers to install child restraints properly. Child restraints installed with LATCH are more likely to be put in correctly than restraints installed using the vehicle safety belt, IIHS research has shown. A properly installed, age-appropriate child restraint can protect a child much better in a crash than a safety belt alone.
"Frustrating child seat installations have become a familiar rite of parenthood," said 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."
In the IIHS ratings system, LATCH hardware is considered good 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 pounds.
- Tether anchors are on the vehicle's rear deck or on the top 85 percent 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 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.
The good+ designation is intended to encourage manufacturers to give parents greater flexibility when seating children in a vehicle.
Here's how the vehicles that were tested are rated:
|2017 Audi Q7||Lexus RX||Toyota Prius|
|2017 Audi A4||BMW 5 series||Mercedes-Benz GL-Class|
|Audi A6||Mercedes-Benz C-Class||Mercedes-Benz GLE-Class|
|BMW 2 series||Mercedes-Benz E-Class||Volkswagen Passat|
|Acura ILX||Ford Flex||Lexus GX 460|
|Acura MDX||Ford Focus hatchback||Lincoln MKX|
|Acura RDX||Ford Focus sedan||Lincoln MKZ|
|Audi A3||Ford Taurus||Mazda 3 hatchback|
|Audi Q3||GMC Terrain||Mazda 3 sedan|
|BMW X1||GMC Yukon XL||Mazda CX-3|
|Buick Enclave||Honda Accord sedan||Mazda CX-5|
|Buick Encore||Honda Civic sedan||Mazda CX-9|
|2017 Cadillac XT5||Honda Civic coupe||Mini Cooper Countryman|
|Chevrolet Cruze Limited||Honda Odyssey||Mitsubishi Outlander|
|Chevrolet Equinox||Honda Pilot||Mitsubishi Outlander Sport|
|Chevrolet Impala||2017 Hyundai Elantra||Nissan Juke|
|Chevrolet Malibu Limited||2017 Hyundai Santa Fe||Nissan Maxima|
|Chevrolet Spark||2017 Hyundai Santa Fe Sport||Nissan Murano|
|Chevrolet Tahoe||Hyundai Tucson||Nissan Pathfinder|
|Chevrolet Traverse||Hyundai Veloster||Nissan Versa|
|Chevrolet Trax||Jeep Cherokee||Toyota Avalon|
|Chrysler 300||Jeep Compass||Toyota Camry|
|Chrysler Town & Country||Jeep Patriot||Toyota Corolla|
|Dodge Challenger||Kia Forte||Toyota Sienna |
built after 3/16
|Dodge Dart||Kia Optima||Volkswagen Golf|
|Dodge Durango||Kia Sedona||Volkswagen Tiguan|
|Dodge Grand Caravan||2017 Kia Sorento||Volvo S60|
|Ford Edge||Kia Soul||Volvo V60|
|Ford Expedition||2017 Kia Sportage||Volvo XC90|
|Ford Explorer||Lexus ES 350 |
built after 8/15
|Acura TLX||2017 Ford Fusion||Nissan Quest|
|Audi Q5||Ford Mustang||Nissan Rogue|
|BMW 3 series||GMC Acadia||Nissan Sentra|
|BMW X3||Honda Accord coupe||Ram 1500 crew cab|
|BMW X5||Honda CR-V||Ram 1500 extended cab|
|Buick Envision||Honda HR-V||Scion FR-S|
|Buick LaCrosse||Hyundai Accent sedan||Scion iA|
|Cadillac CTS||Hyundai Genesis||Subaru Crosstrek|
|Cadillac Escalade ESV||Hyundai Sonata||Subaru Forester|
|Cadillac SRX||Infiniti QX60||Subaru Impreza|
|Chevrolet Camaro||Jeep Grand Cherokee||Subaru Legacy|
|Chevrolet Malibu||Jeep Renegade||Subaru Outback|
|Chevrolet Silverado 1500 ext. cab||Jeep Wrangler 2-door||Subaru WRX|
|Chevrolet Sonic||Jeep Wrangler 4-door||Toyota 4Runner|
|Chevrolet Suburban||Kia Rio||Toyota Highlander|
|2017 Chevrolet Volt||Lexus CT 200h||Toyota Prius c|
|Chrysler 200||Lexus IS||Toyota Prius v |
built after 1/16
|2017 Chrysler Pacifica |
built after 8/2016
|Lexus NX||Toyota RAV4|
|Dodge Charger||Lexus RC||Toyota Tundra crew cab |
built after 4/2016
|Dodge Journey||Lincoln Navigator||Toyota Tundra extended cab |
built after 2/2016
|Fiat 500X||Mazda 6||Volkswagen CC|
|Ford C-Max Hybrid||Mini Cooper||Volkswagen Jetta|
|2017 Ford Escape||Nissan Altima||Volvo XC60|
|Ford F-150 crew cab||Nissan Frontier crew cab|
|Ford F-150 extended cab||Nissan Leaf|
|Chevrolet Silverado 1500 crew cab||GMC Sierra 1500 crew cab||Infiniti QX50|
|Ford Fiesta hatchback||Hyundai Accent hatchback||Subaru BRZ|