New Study Finds LATCH System May Fail to Protect Infants from Brain Injury in Rear Crashes Expert Article

Engineers and scientists at Robson Forensic, Inc. crash-tested three popular rear-facing infant car seats to compare the risk of head injury when using the Lower Anchor and Tethers for CHildren (LATCH) system as compared to seatbelts during rear-end collisions. The LATCH system was required in all vehicles made after September 1, 2002 and intended to make installation of rear and forward-facing child safety seats easier.

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s (NHTSA) website, use of the LATCH system provides equal protection as compared to using the vehicle’s seatbelts.



New Study Finds Latch System May Fail to Protect Infants From Brain Injury in Rear Crashes

The results of this study showed that the LATCH did not provide equal protection during rear end crashes. In fact, the risk of brain injury was higher for infant carrier type car seats when installed using LATCH as compared to using the seatbelt, contrary to the National Highway Transportation and Safety Administration (NHTSA) claims that use of LATCH and seatbelt provides equal protection to children.

The complete study was published in the October 2015 issue of Traffic Injury Prevention and was presented by Dr. Jamie Williams on October 5, 2015 at the annual meeting of the Association for the Advancement of Automotive Medicine in Philadelphia.

State laws require infants to be secured in rear-facing car seats until age of 1 year and weight of 20 pounds. More recently, health care providers have recommended that children remain rear facing longer, suggesting 2 years of age or older. Currently, car seats sold in the US and Canada must meet minimum performance requirements during 30 MPH frontal crashes. However, no rear end collision testing is required even though according to NHTSA, rear-end collisions account for more than 30% of all collisions.

In this study, three different rear facing infant car seats were secured according to the manufacturer’s instructions in the back seat of a 4-door family sedan, which was then subjected to a 30 MPH rear-end collision. A total of 36 crash tests were run. The car seats used in this study were selected because they were top selling makes/models in their category according to online vendors including Walmart and Amazon. An Anthropometric Test Device (ATD) or “test dummy” representing a 6-month old infant was properly secured in each seat.

Some of the Most Salient Findings From This Study Include:

  • Every test (regardless of seat design and use of LATCH or seatbelt) that resulted in the 6-month old ATD head striking the seatback yielded an elevated head injury reference value.
  • Head strikes for infant carrier type car seats installed using LATCH were well above head injury reference values corresponding to concussion (AIS 1+).
  • The use of the available seatbelt reduced the severity of the head impacts for both infant carrier type car seats.

Despite these findings, research clearly shows that the use of child restraint systems are highly effective in reducing the risk of injury and death during a crash. EVERY CHILD should ride in an age appropriate car seat EVERY TIME they are in a vehicle.

More Information

For more information on this study you can contact the experts involved directly. You can also access the abstract for the presentation and paper in the ‘details’ section on this page, or download in PDF format.


Effects of LATCH versus Available Seatbelt Installation of Rear Facing Child Restraint Systems on Head Injury Criteria for 6 Month Old Infants in Rear End Collisions
(ID: 1067804 DOI:10.1080/15389588.2015.1067804)

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