We are in the market for a new car, so I have spent a great deal of time researching cars, safety features, etc. on the Insurance Institure for Highway Safety website. Well, today I saw they have posted results from a study they conducted on the safety of using safety booster seats in the car.
Booster seats are not restaint systems, they are meant to boost a child so the seat belt in the car will properly fit the child to offer the best protection in the event of a crash.
Here is an except from their summary:
Thirteen of the 41 belt-positioning booster seats the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety evaluated with the University of Michigan Transportation Research Institute did such a poor job of improving the fit of lap and shoulder belts for children that the Institute doesn’t recommend them at all. Ten models are best bets and 5 are good bets. These evaluations are the first to tell consumers how well boosters sold by US retailers improve belt fit for children in cars, minivans, and SUVs. The Institute plans to continue these assessments.
Not-recommended boosters: Boosters the Institute doesn’t recommend are the
– highback Compass B505,
– Compass B510,
– Cosco/Dorel Traveler,
– Evenflo Big Kid Confidence;
– backless Safety Angel Ride Ryte;
– combination Cosco/Dorel Alpha Omega,
– Cosco/Dorel (Eddie Bauer) Summit,
– Cosco Highback Booster,
– Dorel/Safety 1st (Eddie Bauer) Prospect,
– Evenflo Chase Comfort Touch,
– Evenflo Generations,
– Graco CarGo Zephyr, and
– Safety 1st/Dorel Intera.
At least 2 of these models have been discontinued, hopefully replaced by better designs. Booster makers sometimes reuse names and even model numbers for new seats, so manufacture dates and model numbers are important.
Best bets and good bets: The 10 best-bet boosters are the most likely to position not only lap belts but also shoulder portions correctly on many children in many vehicles.
Best bets include 3 backless seats:
– Combi Kobuk,
– Fisher-Price Safe Voyage, and
– Graco TurboBooster.
These may require plastic clips to correctly position shoulder belts.
Another best bet is the combination seat Safeguard Go when it’s used as a backless booster. Combination seats convert to boosters by removing their built-in harnesses. At least 5 of the best-bet boosters have been discontinued but still are sold.
“Boosters that provide better belt fit aren’t necessarily the priciest,” notes Anne McCartt, Institute senior vice president for research. “Parents don’t have to spend a lot of money for a best bet or good bet booster.” The highback Graco Turbo-Booster, for example, converts to a backless booster and retails for about $50. The backless-only version sells for about $20.
The most important thing to remember is that children need to be in a child restraint system with a 5-point harness until they outgrow the height or weight for the seat. Normally this happens around age 4. Then a child should be in a booster until they can properly fit the standard car safety belt — normally 4’9″ tall and typically 85 pounds is also recommended. A booster will help ensure the car’s safety belt fits the child properly to best protect them should an accident occur.
According to the IIHS:
“Boosters are belt positioners, not restraints: When children outgrow child restraints, parents may wonder if boosters are necessary. They are, because safety belts are designed to fit adults and usually don’t fit most kids properly until they’re 4 feet 9 inches tall. About 350 children ages 4-7 die in crashes each year in the United States. An additional 50,000 are injured. Because half of the fatally injured children in this age group ride unrestrained, the first step is to get them belted. Boosters help by improving the fit, effectiveness, and comfort of adult belts.
…Using boosters lowers injury risk by 59 percent compared with belts alone, a 2003 study by the Center for Injury Research and Prevention at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia found. A 2006 study by the same authors found that boosters reduce fatality risk among booster-age children by about 28 percent compared with belts alone.”
More information on child restraints from the IIHS
PDF of booster seats the IIHS evaluated in this study