New Booster Seat Models Scored Well in IIHS Rating Evaluations
All of the new booster seats tested by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) scored well, which is good news for parents.
Of the 23 new models evaluated, 20 earn the highest rating of "best bet," meaning they are likely to provide good belt fit for a 4- to 8-year-old child in almost any car, minivan or SUV. The remaining three models are rated "good bets," meaning they provide acceptable fit in most vehicles.
This is a vast improvement from 2008 when the IIHS first began rating booster seats. Just seven years ago, most models failed to consistently provide good belt fit, which is the main purpose of a booster.
This year, there are no new models in the "Not Recommended" category, nor are they any with the "Check Fit" designation, which identifies seats that may work for some children in some vehicles.
In October, the IIHS corrected its 2014 ratings which rated two models using an old rating system. The two seats were listed as "Best Bets" but should have been given a "Not Recommended" designation.
Children age four to eight are 45 percent less likely to sustain injuries in crashes if they are in boosters than if they are using safety belts alone.
Booster seats are designed for children who have outgrown harness-equipped restraints, but are still too small for seatbelts to fit properly, which for some children isn't until age 12. To provide correct fit, lap belts must lie flat across a child's upper thighs, and not across her stomach. The shoulder belt should cross snugly over the middle of a child's shoulder.
It's important to note that the IIHS evaluations focus on belt fit and don't involve crash tests. All car seats, however, have to meet strict safety criteria that's regulated by the federal government.
The Institute's online ratings include many models that were evaluated in past years and are still on the market. Including the 2015 crop, as well as carryover models, there currently are 82 "best bets" and eight "good bets." Six boosters are "Not Recommended," and 31 are in the "Check Fit" category.
Thankfully for parents and caregivers, there's no need to shell out big bucks for a "best bet" booster. The Little Tikes Backless Booster can be found at Walmart for $13. Convertible seats within this category can also be affordable. The Evenflo Platihum Evolve is a 3-in-one seat that can be used as a forward-facing restraint, a highback booster and a backless booster and is available for $170. For the same price, the Safety 1st Grow and Go, can transition from a rear-facing restraint, to a forward-facing restraint, and then finally a booster.
One recent improvement to combination and 3-in-1 seats is the addition of a place to stow harness straps when they are not in use. This allows parents to use the seat as a booster without having to remove the harness completely.
For more information about car seats can be found on the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) website. A complete list of booster seat ratings can be found on the IIHS website.