DETROIT (WWJ) – A new study shows that booster seats are doing a better job of protecting children. But are some better than others?

Booster seats are for children who have outgrown forward-facing child restraints. A booster should elevate a child and route the lap and shoulder belts, which are designed for adults, in the correct position to restrain a child during a crash. Some boosters do this better than others.

The problem is that consumers can’t tell a good booster from a bad one just by comparing features or prices.

The good news, according to Insurance Institute for Highway Safety vice president Ann McCartt, is that more booster seats today are doing a better job of protecting children.

“Of the 83 boosters, 31 were ‘best bets’ and another five were ‘good bets,” McCartt said.

To earn the Institute’s “best bet” rating, the booster seat must correctly position a vehicle safety belt on a typical 4 to 8 year-old in almost any car, minivan, or SUV. A “good bet” rating means the booster seat provides acceptable belt fit in most vehicles.

Just four years ago, the Insurance Institute could only find 10 booster seats worthy of their best bet rating.

“What we’ve seen is a real increase in the top rated seats that are available,” McCartt said.

Engineers evaluated 62 booster models in the latest round. Twenty-one of them show up twice in the lists. These are dual-use seats, which can work as highback or backless boosters. In the ratings, each dual-use model is considered to be two separate boosters for a total of 83 seats evaluated, 11  more than last year.

The biggest group of boosters falls into a middle category, designated “check fit.” These 41 seats may provide good fit for some children in some vehicles, but not as many as good bets or best bets.

To assess belt fit, engineers use a test dummy representing an average-size 6-year-old. They measure how lap and shoulder belts fit the dummy in each booster under 4 conditions representing the range of belt configurations in real-world vehicles.

2011 IIHS Booster Evaluation Results:

Best Bets

  • Britax Frontier 85
  • Britax Frontier 85 SICT
  • Britax Parkway SGL (highback mode)
  • BubbleBum
  • Chicco KeyFit Strada (highback mode)
  • Clek Oobr (highback mode)
  • Cosco Pronto (highback mode)
  • Cybex Solution X-Fix
  • Diono/Sunshine Kids Monterey (highback mode)
  • Eddie Bauer Auto Booster (highback mode)
  • Evenflo Big Kid Amp
  • Evenflo Big Kid Sport (backless mode)
  • Evenflo Maestro
  • Evenflo Symphony 65 e3
  • Ferrari Dreamway SP (highback mode)
  • Graco Argos 70 (highback mode)
  • Graco TurboBooster – Baldwin (highback mode)
  • Graco TurboBooster Elite (highback mode)
  • Harmony Cruz Youth Booster/Harmony Carpooler
  • Harmony Dreamtime (backless mode)
  • Harmony Dreamtime (highback mode)
  • Harmony Olympian/Secure Comfort Deluxe
  • Harmony Youth Booster Seat
  • Kids Embrace Dale Earnhardt Jr.
  • Maxi-Cosi Rodi XR (highback mode)
  • Recaro ProBOOSTER
  • Recaro ProSPORT
  • Recaro Vivo
  • Safety 1st Boost Air Protect (highback mode)
  • Safety 1st S1 Rümi Air
  • The First Years B570 Pathway

Good Bets

  • Britax Parkway SG (highback mode)
  • Combi Kobuk Air Thru (backless mode)
  • Combi Kobuk Air Thru (highback mode)
  • Evenflo Symphony 65
  • Maxi-Cosi Rodi (highback mode)

Not Recommended

  • Evenflo Chase
  • Evenflo Express
  • Evenflo Generations 65
  • Evenflo Sightseer
  • Safety 1st All-in-One
  • Safety 1st Alpha Omega Elite

To see a full list of model numbers and booster pictures, click here.


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