A leading consumer safety authority in the US is calling on automotive manufacturers to make installing child seats in their vehicles easier after a study showed only one in five meets key ease-of-use criteria.

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The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) found just 21 of the 98 top-selling 2010-2011 model year passenger vehicles in the US had child seat anchorage designs that were easy to use.

Disturbingly, seven models did not feature any of the three characteristics that make fitting child seats easy, including the Chevrolet Impala, Ford Taurus, Hyundai Sonata and the Toyota Sienna – the top-selling people mover in the US in 2011.

New vehicles sold in the US are fitted with LATCH (Lower Anchors and Tethers for Children), a child seat securement system adapted from the ISOFIX system.

LATCH has two distinct components: lower attachments on the child restraints located at near the seat buckles, and top tethers that attach to anchors on the floor, seat back, cargo area or ceiling.

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The researchers identified three factors – depth of the anchorage, clearance and obstruction by other buckles, and required installation force – that are associated with correct lower anchor use and are good predictors of how well people are able to correctly install child restraints.

They found vehicles that met all three criteria were 19 times more likely to be used correctly by parents than vehicles that didn’t meet any of the criteria.

The IIHS hopes by encouraging manufacturers to make using LATCH easier it will assist more parents in correctly installing child seats and securing children in their vehicles.

In 2010, 29 per cent of children aged one to three years old and 12 per cent of children under one year old who died in crashes in the US were riding unrestrained.

Australian parents will finally be able to use ISOFIX-compliant child seats in their cars from early 2013 after the internationally approved system got the green light from the government last month, more than 15 years after it was developed in Europe.