The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety has included a record 31 booster seats designated "Best Bets" - these seats position a safety belt on an average 4 to 8 year old child in virtually any car, SUV or minivan. Their prices range from under $15 to several hundred. The Institute also added 5 Good Bets, which provide adequate belt fit in the majority of vehicles.
A booster seat is used for a child who is now too big for forward-facing child restraints. With a booster seat, the child should be elevated and the lap and shoulder belts of the car should be correctly positioned so that the child is restrained in the event of a collision.
Some booster seats are better at doing this than others. The difficulty for purchasers is that they cannot determine which ones are the best by simply comparing prices or features. The Institute says that its ratings, which have existed since 2008, are the only evaluations in the USA which list the best ones - the seats that give the child the best belt fit and can be used by a wide range of vehicles.
Anne McCartt, the Institute's senior vice president for research, said:
"A Best Bet means any of these top-rated boosters should work well in the family SUV or the babysitter's sedan"
In this latest study, experts assessed 62 booster models. 21 of them show up two times in the lists. These can work as both highback or backless boosters, known as dual-use seats. In the Institute's ratings, a dual-use model is evaluated as two different boosters for a total of 83 seats evaluated.
The "check fit" booster seats, 41 one them, do not provide a good fit in as many vehicles as the Good Bets or Best Bets.
On its website, the Institute wrote:
"Parents are advised to make sure the lap belt lies flat across a child's upper thighs and the shoulder belt crosses snugly over the middle of the shoulder. If not, a different seat is needed."
The Institute focused on belt fit for its rating, and not crash performance, since no crash tests were carried out. The engineers used a test dummy which had similar measurements to an average 6-year-old child. They measure how the belt fits the dummy-child in each booster under four different conditions which represent the range of belt configurations in a selection of vehicles.
The authors of this latest report say that over recent years boosters have improved considerably. There were 10 Best Bets in 2008, only 9 in 2009, and 21 in 2010. The last jump occurred because booster makers started using the Institute's test protocols when designing and updating their products.
"Just 4 years into our ratings program, parents have a wide variety of top-rated seats to choose from. Still, boosters that don't consistently provide good belt fit outnumber the ones that do, so consumers need to keep paying attention to this issue."
Bear in mind that the majority of dual-use boosters do not have the same ratings for each mode. 14 of the dual-use boosters are rated Best Bets or Good Bets when in highback mode, but not when in backless mode.
The only dual-use booster seat that is a Best Bet in both backless and highback mode is the Harmony Dreamtime, and the Combi Kobuk Air Thru is a Good Bet in the two modes.
2011 Insurance Institute for Highway Safety Booster Evaluation ResultsBest Bets
- The First Years B570 Pathway
- Safety 1st S1 Rümi Air
- Safety 1st Boost Air Protect (highback mode)
- Recaro Vivo
- Recaro ProSPORT
- Recaro ProBOOSTER
- Maxi-Cosi Rodi XR (highback mode)
- Kids Embrace Dale Earnhardt Jr.
- Harmony Youth Booster Seat
- Harmony Olympian/Secure Comfort Deluxe
- Harmony Dreamtime (highback mode)
- Harmony Dreamtime (backless mode)
- Harmony Cruz Youth Booster/Harmony Carpooler
- Graco TurboBooster Elite (highback mode)
- Graco TurboBooster - Baldwin (highback mode)
- Graco Argos 70 (highback mode)
- Ferrari Dreamway SP (highback mode)
- Evenflo Symphony 65 e3
- Evenflo Maestro
- Evenflo Big Kid Sport (backless mode)
- Evenflo Big Kid Amp
- Eddie Bauer Auto Booster (highback mode)
- Diono/Sunshine Kids Monterey (highback mode)
- Cybex Solution X-Fix
- Cosco Pronto (highback mode)
- Clek Oobr (highback mode)
- Chicco KeyFit Strada (highback mode)
- Britax Parkway SGL (highback mode)
- Britax Frontier 85
- Britax Frontier 85 SICT
- Maxi-Cosi Rodi (highback mode)
- Evenflo Symphony 65
- Combi Kobuk Air Thru (highback mode)
- Combi Kobuk Air Thru (backless mode)
- Britax Parkway SG (highback mode)
- Safety 1st Alpha Omega Elite
- Safety 1st All-in-One
- Evenflo Sightseer
- Evenflo Generations 65
- Evenflo Express
- Evenflo Chase