Only around 21% of the top-selling 2010 and 2011 vehicle models are built to allow easy installation of child safety seats, according to a study conducted by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety and the University of Michigan Transportation Research. According to the study, 21 of the 98 cars evaluated were able to meet all three child safety characteristics outlined by researchers and as mandated by US safety regulators.
Safety regulators mandated that vehicles produced for the 2003 model year and newer must have a standard set of features called LATCH (lower anchors and tethers for children) system that allow parents to install a safety seat. There are three required characteristics for the LATCH system.
First, vehicles must be fitted with anchors in the rear seats at two positions to secure the top and bottom of child safety seats. Second, the anchors must be easy to spot and must be hidden no more than three-quarters of an inch deep in the rear seat’s crack.
Third, the anchors must be easy to reach, with parents using only less than 40 lbs of force to secure the child safety seats. According to the study, seven 2011 US models, including the Toyota Sienna XLE minivan, failed to have any of the three characteristics that allow easy installation of child safety seats. Interestingly, the Sienna was the top-selling minivan in the U.S. market in 2011.
Those models that passed the LATCH standards included General Motors Co.'s Chevrolet Equinox crossover, Ford Escape XLT, Chrysler's Town & Country minivan, the Mercedes-Benz C300 sports sedan, and Honda Pilot SUV.
According to Anne McCartt, senior vice president of research for the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety and one of the report's authors, parents sometimes blame themselves for having difficulties with the child safety seats but the real fault lies with the vehicle.