Graduating from a car seat to a booster seat is a big deal for parents and kids. Kids love how grown up they feel sitting in a less restrictive seat that doesn’t involve a five-point harness and muttered expletives from the adult attempting to strap them in. Parents, of course, love no longer having a reason to mutter expletives every time they have to go somewhere in the car.
But booster seats aren’t just convenient. They save lives and prevent injuries. According to a study by The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, kids ages 4 through 8 riding in booster seats are 45 percent less likely to be injured in a crash than kids who are simply strapped in with seat belts alone. In fact, the widespread use of booster seats has been credited with reducing the number of traffic injuries among kids ages 4 through 6 by 18%.
But not all booster seats are created equal. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) recently tested 72 models of booster seats to see how well lap and shoulder belts fit children ages 4 to 8 when sitting in them. A correct fit is important when considering how well a booster seat will restrain a child in the event of a crash.
The good news is that since 2008, the year IIHS started testing booster seats, they have gotten better. The bad news is that of the 72 models tested, only 21 received a Best Bet rating, meaning they correctly position seat belts on the average booster-age kid in most vehicles.
Seven booster seats earned a Good Bet rating and 8 were deemed poor enough to be Not Recommended.
The rest fell somewhere in the middle because they didn’t fit consistently well on most kids in most cars. They might work for yours, but they were not found to be universally safe. Of those, most were backless boosters that got good marks for consistent lap belt fit but not for shoulder belt fit.
Anne McCartt, Institute senior vice president for research, says that parents should shop around for a booster seat that is a good fit for their child and their car.
If the booster isn’t doing a good job — if the lap belt is up on your son or daughter’s tummy or if the shoulder belt is falling off your child’s shoulder — then find a replacement booster seat as soon as practical, but you’ll probably want to keep using the old one until then.
Here you will find the IIHS 2010 booster seat safety evaluation results. How did yours do?
Image: Lars Plougmann/Flickr
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