Finding the right booster seat for your child when they’ve outgrown their car seat is a lot easier with the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) annual rankings. The IIHS began ranking car seats in 2008 because their research showed most booster seats weren’t doing a good job of consistently or correctly positioning safety belts for children 4 to 8 years old. An improperly fitted seat belt can injure a child in an accident.
Since the Institute began ranking child booster seats, manufacturers have worked closely with the IIHS to improve booster seat design and safety. In 2008 only 10 or 41 models tested earned a BEST BET rating. In 2013, 19 of 31 new booster seat models evaluated earned a BEST BET rating and 1 earned a GOOD BET.
The IIHS uses a 4 ranking system consisting of BEST BET, GOOD BET, Check Fit, and Not Recommended.
- BEST BET is awarded when a booster seat correctly positions belts on a typical 4 to 8 year old child almost any car, minivan, or SUV.
- GOOD BET booster seats provide acceptable belt fit in most vehicles.
- Check Fit means the booster seat may provide good belt fit for some children in some vehicles. 11 models of booster seats that were introduced in 2013 earned a Check Fit ranking.
BEST and GOOD BET booster seats elevate the child to a position so that the lap belt fits snugly over the upper thighs and the shoulder belt crosses snugly over the middle of the child’s shoulder. Testing involves measuring how a three-point lap and shoulder belt fits a child-size test dummy seated in the booster seat. All tests are stationary, do not involve crash tests and measure the seats across a range of safety belt configurations and passenger vehicles.
Booster seats are available in both highback and backless styles. Highback models have guides to route lap and shoulder belts into a proper position for the child and provide some additional level of head support. The backless models have lap guides but may require a clip to properly position the shoulder belt. Some backless models come with the clip included while others are sold separately.
Children ages 4 to 8 are 45% less likely to be injured in crashes when sitting in a booster seat than in a three point belt alone. Moving a child from a booster seat into an adult belt should only occur when the child can properly sit in one based on their height and weight.
For a complete list of BEST and GOOD BET booster seats, visit the IIHS website at http://www.iihs.org/iihs/ratings/child-boosters. Another excellent resource to determine what seat is best for your child and how to properly install it is http://www.safercar.gov/parents/CarSeats.htm.
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