2016 IIHS LATCH Ease-of-Use Ratings Released

IIHS Reports Vehicle Manufacturers Respond, Make Improvements in LATCH Hardware

tsxwagonlatchFor the 2nd year, the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) has released their LATCH Ease-of-Use ratings for parents who are contemplating purchasing a new vehicle. Most parents look at safety features, such as airbags, lane departure warning, automatic emergency braking, and so on, without realizing that being able to install their carseats easily is also a safety feature. When Lower Anchors and Tethers for CHildren was introduced in 2002, it was hailed as the panacea for poorly installed child seats; instead, it’s brought confusion, frustration, and ultimately carseat manufacturers who try to discourage its use. So why should you care about LATCH ease-of-use when buying a car?

When we as technicians teach parents how to install their carseats, we always go for the easiest method first and that usually is LATCH, especially for rear-facing carseats. If the lower anchors that the LATCH connectors attach to on the vehicle are difficult to find for technicians, parents are likely to be doubly frustrated. Most of the time we can finagle the LATCH connectors onto the anchor, but what if you have rigid LATCH, which is becoming more popular? Rigid LATCH is supposed to be an insanely easy install where you simply push it onto the lower anchors, but if you can’t access the anchors because they’re so buried in the vehicle seat bight (crack) or blocked by stiff leather, you’re not getting some of that ease of installation for which you paid. I still get sympathetic Braxton Hicks contractions when some of my more stubborn pregnant mamas try to dig around and find their lower anchors.

Last year, the IIHS found that only 3 of 102 vehicles passed their criteria for a good rating with more than half being poor or marginal. This year, however, vehicle manufacturers paid attention and 3 models, the 2017 Audi Q7, the 2016 Lexus RX, and the 2016 Toyota Prius, received the top rating of Good+ and most of the 170 vehicles rated good or acceptable. It’s notable that there aren’t any minivans, considered to be top young family haulers, in the Good or Good+ categories. One heavily advertised minivan, the 2017 Chrysler Pacifica manufactured after August 2016 received a Marginal score whereas models manufactured before September 2016 received a Poor score.

toyota_iihs_latch_02_e15ebb531d38a929d24f9807c5303865ed7ac729_lowHere are side-by-side comparisons of the Toyota Prius model years 2015 and 2016. Toyota improved access by adding a flap of fabric to the vehicle seat bight (previously seen on the Sienna) so the lower anchors can be easily seen when the flap is lifted and can be borrowed in the center seating position, which is new for Toyota (though problematic since the LATCH strap would cover the driver’s side seat buckle). The top tether anchors are easy to find.

2015-toyota-prius-latch-rating 2016-toyota-prius-latch-rating

IIHS researchers used tools to measure the depth of the anchors in the vehicle seat bight and the clearance angle. They also measured how far in from the edge of the bight they are found. Top tether anchors were rated on their locations as well. The goal is to have LATCH anchors that are easy to find right away because they’re clearly labeled and easily accessed. Vehicles receive a Good rating if they have the following:

  • The lower anchors are no more than 3/4 inch deep in the seat bight.
  • 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 to the lower anchors is less than 40 pounds. (The tool represents a lower connector of a child seat, though the actual force required when installing a seat varies depending on the specific connector.)
  • 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.

A Good+ rating is achieved if a vehicle also provides another LATCH-equipped seating position with a good or acceptable LATCH rating.

What does this mean if your perfect vehicle has a less than perfect LATCH ease-of-use rating? It means you now know that installing a carseat using the lower anchors and/or top tether may be more difficult. Since IIHS gives you an explanation of why each seating position has its difficulties, you are armed with information, which is powerful—the more you know, right? Remember, you don’t *have* to install your carseat with the lower anchors and in fact, at some point with a convertible and combination carseat, you will have to switch to the vehicle seat belt because of weight limits (see your carseat and vehicle instruction manuals and labels).


Maxi-Cosi RodiFix Booster Giveaway – More Blogiversary Awesomeness!


It’s our 8th “Blogiversary” but this celebration isn’t about us – it’s about you! We are thankful to have so many awesome readers and followers who all care deeply about keeping kids safe. We want to reward you for supporting us throughout these past 8 years and we know the best reward is another fantastic giveaway promotion!

This week the celebration continues with a brand new RodiFix Booster, courtesy of our generous sponsor, Maxi-Cosi!

The Maxi-Cosi RodiFix is a great booster for older kids and it’s on our list of Recommended Seats. We think it’s most appropriate for kids ages 5-10 years old who weigh over 40 lbs. You can find our complete Maxi-Cosi RodiFix review here.

This promotion is now closed. Congratulations to our winner ~ Maggie from MN!

Winner will have their choice of 4 new RodiFix fashions: Brilliant Navy, Devoted Black, Grey Rose & Loyal Grey.

maxi-cosi rodifix-brilliant navy maxi-cosi rodifix-devoted black maxi-cosi rodifix-grey rose maxi-cosi rodifix-loyal grey

RodiFix Specs & Features:

  • maxi-cosi rodifix-devoted black rigid latchHighback Booster (does NOT convert to backless booster)
  • 40-120 lbs., up to 57″ tall
  • Rigid lower LATCH attachments
  • True recline feature
  • Innovative locking shoulder belt guides
  • Deep torso wings and headwings with Air Protect technology for enhanced SIP
  • Premium self-wicking fabrics and additional cushioning for comfort
  • Cover is machine washable and dryer safe
  • Narrow profile
  • Hourglass shape design for easy buckling

How to Enter RodiFix Booster Giveaway

  • Leave us a comment below (required to be eligible to win), then click on Rafflecopter to qualify yourself.
  • For extra entries, be sure follow the Rafflecopter instructions to visit our Facebook page, visit the Maxi-Cosi USA Facebook page and tweet about the giveaway.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Now for the fine print – winner must have a USA shipping address to claim the prize. Only one prize will be awarded. Only one entry per household/family, please. If you leave more than one comment, only the first one will count. We reserve the right to deem any entry as ineligible for any reason, though this would normally only be done in the case of a violation of the spirit of the rules above. We also reserve the right to edit/update the rules for any reason. The contest will close on September 18, 2016, and one random winner will be chosen shortly thereafter. If a winner is deemed ineligible based on shipping restrictions or other issues or does not respond to accept the prize within 7 days, a new winner will be selected. Good luck!

2016 Graco Milestone Label Recall


Graco is recalling about 6,000 Milestone All-in-One carseats due to missing information on a label. This DOES NOT affect the safety of the carseats, but the information is required by NHTSA. The phrase, “secure this child restraint with the vehicle’s child restraint anchorage system, if available, or with a vehicle belt,” is missing from a large label on the side of the carseat.

Milestone Kline2016 Milestone Recall Label

Graco Milestone carseats affected include models manufactured between July 2015 and October 2015:

Milestone Model #s Manufacture Dates
1910130 07/09/2015 through 10/09/2015
1923980 08/04/2015
1926538 09/12/2015
1926539 08/17/2015

You can find the model number and date of manufacture on the back of the carseat or on the bottom on a label that looks like this:

2016 Milestone sample DOM label

For more information on the recall, visit the Graco Milestone Recall page.

2016 Infant Carseat Safety Ratings from Consumer Reports – 17 new models evaluated


The Safest Infant Carseats:  Best, Better or Basic?  How do infant seats compare?

Today, Consumer Reports released their second round of infant carseat ratings using their new test methodology for evaluating infant child safety seats. We feel these ratings are likely to be a big step forward and should help parents to compare the crash safety of carseats. In the long term, just like the 5-star rating system from NHTSA and the IIHS Top Safety Pick ratings for automobiles, more rigorous testing often leads to better product designs in the future.

Why did Consumer Reports create their own crash test for child restraints?

Consumer Reports wanted to provide consumers with comparative information on carseats. By developing their own crash test, the goal was to determine which carseats offered an extra margin of safety in certain crash conditions simulated by the new tests. We know all carseats sold in the U.S. should meet federal safety standards but we also know all carseats aren’t the same. The goal here was to determine which seats could hold up well even under tougher crash test conditions that were also more “real world” than the current tests.

How is this test different from the government’s FMVSS 213 crash test?  

The Consumer Reports crash test was developed to be more rigorous than the current federal safety standards. They also designed the test with more real world vehicle conditions in mind. This new test is performed at an independent, outside testing facility. It uses a contemporary vehicle seat with a lap/shoulder seatbelt and a floor below it, unlike the government’s FMVSS 213 crash test which has a 70’s era back seat test bench with lap-only seatbelts and no floor. There is also a “blocker plate” installed in front of the test seat to simulate the interaction that occurs between the carseat and the front seat in a real crash. This is important because in the real world we know children are often injured when they come into contact with the back of the front seat during a crash. Consumer Reports also chose to run their tests at 35 mph; the government’s crash test is 30 mph.

Consumer Reports - test buck

What is the rating scale?

The crash protection ratings will indicate a “BASIC,” “BETTER,” or “BEST” score for crash protection. The rating is based on a combination of injury measures. While we don’t know exactly where they drew the line between best and better, we do know that seats receiving a “best” rating for crash protection performed statistically better than other peer models for crash performance.

A seat can be downgraded to a “basic” rating if there are repeatable structural integrity issues or if the dummy records injury measures that are considerably higher than the other peer models tested. Seats with a “basic” rating are still considered safe to use because they do meet all the safety standards in FMVSS 213. Please try to keep in mind that these are VERY challenging new tests and there will always be some designs that outperform others.

CR also gives each seat a separate overall numeric score which is based on its crash protection rating and other factors like ease of installation with seatbelt or lower LATCH anchors and ease of use. Seats with high overall scores will have a “better” or “best” crash protection rating plus they are considered easy to install properly and easy to use correctly.

Below we have listed the crash protection rating for the infant seats that received either a “Best” or a “Basic” rating for crash protection.  If you want to see the full ratings for all the seats they tested, which include 22 additional models in the “Better” rating category (plus all the overall numeric scores and comments), they are available only to subscribers. An annual online subscription to ConsumerReports.org is $26.

Infant Carseat Ratings

keyfitsurgeNot surprisingly, their top overall performers (combination of crash protection plus ease of installation and ease of use) are the Chicco KeyFit & Chicco KeyFit 30 models, which are also on our list of Recommended Carseats.

NUNA PIPA + BASE WITH LOAD LEGWe note that the Asana 35 DLX (our review of the Asana is coming very soon), Cybex Aton 2, Cybex Aton Q, & Nuna Pipa were all tested using their load leg feature. Thanks to the load leg, these seats were all top performers in crash protection. Unfortunately, a load leg cannot be used on the government’s FMVSS 213 crash test sled, as that sled does not have a floor. 

Below is a table of the infant carseat models which received a “Best” rating for crash protection, as well as those that only received a “Basic” rating.