After testing over 70 booster seats, the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety has released their picks for the best and worst booster seats out there.
Seat belts are designed to protect an adult in the event of an accident. For most of us, they come down across the middle of our shoulder and they rest across our lower lap, just as intended. Since children’s bodies are smaller, seat belts don’t sit the way they should on them. The shoulder strap has a tendency to dig into their necks and the lap belt slides up and sits across their bellies. Even worse, to avoid this discomfort, some children will remove the shoulder strap from their chest and place it between them and the seat.
The problem is that a seat belt can actually do more harm than good if it isn’t where it belongs. This is where booster seats come in. It’s the booster seat’s responsibility to make sure the belt is positioned properly on the average 4 to 8-year-old. However, some booster seats do this job better than others. That’s exactly what the IIHS wanted to determine.
After testing the booster seats with a crash test dummy designed to represent a 6-year-old of average size, the Institute groups boosters into several different categories. To earn “Best Bet” or “Good Bet” status, the seat must position the seat belt properly on “average booster-age kids in most vehicles.” If a seat doesn’t fit seat belts well at all, it falls into the “Not Recommended” group.
Last year, 60 boosters were tested and only 9 of them were rated Best Bets. This year, for the first time since they started testing, the IIHS had more Best Bets than Not Recommended. This shows a positive change from the makers of these seats, as they are clearly reevaluating the safety their products provide. Of the 72 booster seats tested, 21 are Best Bets, 7 are Good Bets, and 8 are Not Recommended. The 36 others make up a fourth group in the middle of the spectrum. Most of those scored well on the lap test but not on the shoulder test, probably because they don’t have backs, which help route the belt across the chest. They may work well for some children in some vehicles, but the Institute has not provided that list.
Best Bets include 1 Britax model, 1 Chicco model, 1 Clek model, 1 Cosco model, 1 Cybex model, 1 Eddie Bauer model, 2 Evenflo models, 1 Graco model, 5 Harmony models, 1 Maxi-Cosi model, 4 Recaro models, 1 Safety 1st model, and 1 The First Years Model.
Good Bets include 1 Britax model, 2 Combi models, 1 Evenflo model, 2 Graco models, and 1 Maxi-Cosi model.
Not Recommended includes 2 Eddie Bauer models, 3 Evenflo models, 1 Harmony model, and 2 Safety 1st models.
For a complete list with full model names, please visit the Institute’s website.
So what do you do if Junior’s booster didn’t make the coveted Best Bet list? Shop around until you find one that properly positions the belt on your child. But make sure you keep your kids in the one they have now until you buy a new one. This is so important because, even if your booster falls into the Not Recommended group, 4 to 8-year-olds are 45% less likely to get hurt in an accident than those who are wearing just a seat belt.
Insurance Institute for Highway Safety
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Swing Set Recall