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Booster Seats Don’t Always Protect Your Children

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Some new tests show that car booster seats are not yet consistent in the protection they provide for young children. But, there are some signs of improvement. 

iihs logo Booster Seats Don’t Always Protect Your ChildrenThe Insurance Institute for Highway Safety testing 72 booster seats to see how well they fit small children. Twenty one boosters got “best bet” ratings, 7 earned the status “good bet.” 8 were not recommended, with the rest falling in the middle.  

 “The bottom line is the majority of booster seats out there on the market will not provide good belt fit in every vehicle,” says Institute spokesman Russ Rader. 

Follow this link to get full IIHS booster seat test results. 

Boosters elevate children so safety belts designed for adults will fit better. The lap belt should fit flat across a child's upper thighs, not the soft abdomen. Good boosters have belt-routing features that hold lap belts down and forward. The shoulder belt should cross snugly over the middle of the shoulder. Then it's in position to provide effective protection in a crash.

GOOD BELT FIT: Boosters elevate children so safety belts designed for adults will fit better. The lap belt should fit flat across a child's upper thighs, not the soft abdomen. Good boosters have belt-routing features that hold lap belts down and forward. The shoulder belt should cross snugly over the middle of the shoulder. Then it's in position to provide effective protection in a crash.

 

Still it’s a big improvement from last year, when only 9 of sixty seats tested won the “best bet” rating. 

“Now more than ever, manufacturers are paying attention to belt fit,” says Anne McCartt, the Institute’s senior vice president for research. 

Booster seats, which are mandatory in Michigan and many other states, are for children aged 4-8, who have outgrown their child safety seats, but aren’t yet big enough to be protected by conventional seat belts. 

“What they are designed to do is lift children up so that seat belts that are designed for adults can fit them better and protect them better in a crash,” said Rader, in an interview with WWJ AutoBeat Reporter Jeff Gilbert. 

(Jeff Gilbert’s interview with Russ Rader is part of today’s Worldwide Automotive Report) 

Many of the tested seats worked fine in one vehicle and not another. Others didn’t put children in the best position to be protected in a crash. The other issue is making sure children are comfortable in a booster seat. 

Not all boosters provide good belt fit. Here, the lap belt is too high on the abdomen, and the shoulder belt is too low on the shoulder.

POOR BELT FIT: Not all boosters provide good belt fit. Here, the lap belt is too high on the abdomen, and the shoulder belt is too low on the shoulder.

 

“If the shoulder belt for example is riding up against a child’s neck,” Rader said. “He or she may be more likely to try to take that belt off his or her shoulder, or even put it behind their back.” 

The Insurance Institute says booster seats should fit in the center of the shoulder, and across the lap of the child, not the abdoman, where it could do damage in a crash. 

Rader said it’s currently up to the individual manufacturer to determine how best to design booster seats, as there are no national standards. There are no crash tests yet designed to determine how well an individual booster seat will protect a child in a crash. 

“The Institute has been calling for a federal standard for the better part of a decade, and the federal government has still not taken any action.”

The following video was provided by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety.

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