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MIAMI (CBSMiami) – A good car seat is only part of the equation for child safety.

Proper installation is just as important, but parents know that’s not always an easy task.

The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety tested the built-in attachment hardware on more than 100 vehicles, and found many vehicles’ LATCH systems leave something to be desired.

“We evaluated over 100 vehicles, and only 3 earned the top rating of good and more than half were poor or marginal,” said Jessica Jermakian, a senior research scientist with IIHS.

LATCH stands for Lower Anchors and Tethers for Children. The hardware is intended to make it easier to install a child seat properly.

According to IIHS, Child restraints installed with LATCH, rather than with vehicle safety belts, are more likely to be installed correctly, research has shown.

The new ratings are based on how easy it is to use the hardware.

In many vehicles, LATCH can be easily confused with other hardware, or almost impossible to spot.

Only three vehicles received a rating of “good”; the BMW 5 Series, the Mercedes-Benz GL-Class and the Volkswagen Passat.

Those rated “poor” included the Toyota Sienna minivan, and the popular Nissan Altima and Volkswagen Jetta, according to the IIHS.

Safety experts say parents should look for LATCH hardware that is easy to reach.

“LATCH hardware that is easy to use is more likely to result in a good tight installation,” Jermakian said.

IIHS said car manufacturers need to put the tethers in accessible locations and leave parents enough room to maneuver around them.

The institute says LATCH hardware with a poor rating still provides the same protection as hardware with a good rating – it’s just more difficult to use.

Click here to view the full report and see how your vehicle ranked, click here.


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