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New Booster Seat Ratings Released
last updated:
Wed, 9/08/2010 4:04 PM

Researchers at the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety recently conducted a third round of evaluations of the fit of 72 booster seats. The safest seats received the top ratings of "best bet" or "good bet," because they correctly position belts on average booster-age kids in most vehicles. The worst performers are ones the Institute doesn't recommend because they do a poor job of fitting belts. A good booster routes the lap belt across a child's upper thighs and positions the shoulder belt at mid-shoulder.

Good Belt Fit
Booster Seat Good Fit

Booster seats elevate children so that safety belts, which are designed for adults, will fit better. The lap belt should fit flat across a child's upper thighs, not the soft abdomen. Good booster seats have belt-routing features that hold lap belts down and forward. The shoulder belt should cross snugly over the middle of the shoulder to provide effective protection in a crash.

Poor Belt Fit 
Booster Seats Bad Fit

Not all boosters provide a good safety belt fit. Here the lap belt is too high on the abdomen, and the shoulder belt is too close to the neck. 

To find out how your Booster Seat rates, visit http://www.iihs.org/news/rss/pr090810.html

Improvements Have Been Made
Some manufacturers are taking the ratings to heart. Harmony Juvenile Products has 5 "best bet" boosters, more than any other manufacturers. One of them, the Harmony Secure Comfort Deluxe backless, wasn't recommended last year. The company modified it to eliminate the earlier problem with lap belt fit. Dorel Juvenile Group has five seats that rate either "best bet" or "good bet," including the new Safety 1st Boost Air Protect. The firm sells seats under the names Cosco, Dorel, Eddie Bauer, Maxi-Cosi, Safeguard, and Safety 1st. Dorel also makes four boosters the Institute doesn't recommend, down from seven in the prior round of evaluations.

Confused - What Should You Do?
What should parents do if a booster they already have isn't one the Institute recommends using? Safe Kids Mid-south, led by Le Bonheur Children’s, suggests that parents take note of how the safety belts in their vehicle fit their child next time they're in the car. If the booster is doing a good job- if the lap belt is high on the thighs and not on the child’s tummy and if the shoulder belt crosses the middle of the shoulder, then use it. But, if the booster isn't doing a good job- if the lap belt is up on the child’s tummy or if the shoulder belt is falling off your child's shoulder — then find a replacement booster.

“Real children are not crash test dummies, so every seat can fit differently. Booster seats come in all shapes and sizes, so take your child with you to pick out the booster seat that will fit best. Don't panic if your booster seat shows up on a 'not recommended list'. The booster seat that doesn't fit the crash dummy may fit your child perfectly,” remarked Susan A. Helms R.N., M.A.L.S., director of Injury Prevention and Safe Kids Mid-South.

The Numbers Tell the Truth: Booster Seats Save Lives
Newest research from Children's Hospital of Philadelphia shows that children who use a belt-positioning booster seat in the back seat of the vehicle are 45 percent less likely to be injured in a crash than those who use only a seat belt.

The most important factor is how a booster seat fits your child. Here are some guidelines.

  • Does the shoulder belt rest on the shoulder bone? You may have to raise the booster seat's head rest to adjust the fit. 
  • Does the lap belt lay across the upper legs or thighs? Be sure that the lap belt is under both armrests. 
  • If both the lap and shoulder belt fit as directed, you have a “recommended' seat because it is a good fit for your child.


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Le Bonheur Children's Medical Center is a leading children's hospital in the Mid South, providing pediatric care to children from 95 counties in six states.
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