LATCH usability in vehicles.
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LATCH usability in vehicles.

  • 2012-04-01

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      This project investigated the usability of Lower Anchors and Tethers for CHildren (LATCH) hardware by measuring LATCH implementations in 98 2011 or 2010 model-year vehicles. ISO and SAE LATCH usability rating systems were used to assess all vehicles using data from the second row left position. Child restraint/vehicle interaction was assessed using both ISO and NHTSA proposed procedures. Volunteer testing was performed with 36 subjects on 12 different vehicles using 3 different child restraints, with each subject performing 8 child restraint installations. The results from the vehicle survey indicate that most vehicle manufacturers provide LATCH hardware at only the minimum number of locations required by FMVSS 225. Only 7 vehicles had three sets of LATCH hardware in the second row, while most of the remaining 91 vehicles were only equipped with LATCH in each outboard position and a tether anchor in the center position. In the 21 vehicles with a third row, four had no tether anchors and 11 had no lower anchors in the third row. The SAE child restraint fixture could not be installed in 27 vehicles, although head restraint interference was the cause of interference in only one vehicle. Fifty-nine vehicles met the SAE recommended lower attachment force of 75 N (16.9 lb) or less, while 15 vehicles required forces from 2 to 8 times this value. Only 2 vehicles met SAE recommendations for clearance angle of at least 75 degrees around the lower anchors. The depth of the lower anchors relative to the bight is less than 2 cm in 28 vehicles, 2-4 cm in 34 vehicles, and greater than 4 cm in 36 vehicles. The most common location for the tether anchor is the seatback (42) and package shelf (35). The lower anchors are marked in 77 vehicles, while the tether anchors are marked in 68 vehicles. Only Ford products clearly specify weight ranges for use of LATCH hardware in their manuals. Many vehicle manuals are not clear on how the head restraint should be positioned during child restraint installation. ISO ratings of vehicle LATCH usability ranged from 41% to 78%, while vehicles assessed using the SAE draft recommended practice met between 2 and all 10 of the recommendations. There was a slight correlation between vehicles meeting SAE recommended practices and ISO usability ratings. Twenty vehicles with a range of vehicle features were assessed using the ISO vehicle/child restraint form and 7 child restraints; ISO vehicle/child restraint interaction scores ranged from 14% to 86%. Based on these interaction scores, the Cosco Alpha Omega, the Chicco KeyFit, and Evenflo Maestro were used with a subset of 12 vehicles to perform volunteer testing and assess the quality of subject installations. No vehicle factors predicted tether use or correct use of tether. However, the correct use of lower anchors was associated with a lower anchor clearance angle greater than 54°, an attachment force of 40 lb or less, and lower anchor depth within the bight of less than 2 cm. Correct lower anchor use also had 3.3 times higher odds of tight installation compared to incorrect use.
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