25 Oct 2012
IIHS: Children’s booster seats reach milestone in IIHS safety ratings program

Fifteen of 17 booster seats introduced in 2012 earn the top rating of BEST BET from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS), evidence that more than ever, manufacturers are designing seats to provide good safety belt fit for booster-age children.

The improvements mean that BEST BET boosters now outnumber seats rated lower for the first time since IIHS released its inaugural booster ratings in 2008. Boosters are supposed to improve how adult lap and shoulder belts fit children so the belts can properly restrain them in crashes. BEST BET boosters correctly position belts on a typical 4-to-8-year-old child in almost any car, minivan or SUV.

“Booster manufacturers have risen to the Institute’s challenge to improve seat design, giving parents more choices when shopping for a booster that will provide a good, safe fit for their children,” says Anne McCartt, Institute senior vice president for research.

U.S. regulations don’t address how a booster should position safety belts. Manufacturers crash test boosters, but these simulations don’t tell parents how boosters will fit their children in their vehicles. IIHS launched its ratings program after research showed most boosters weren’t doing a good job of fitting safety belts correctly and consistently in a variety of vehicles.

In all, there are 47 BEST BET boosters for 2012. The new rankings include the latest models, plus older designs still on the market. Five seats are a GOOD BET, meaning they provide acceptable belt fit in most vehicles. The 37 boosters in the Check Fit category may provide good fit for some children in some vehicles, but not as many as a BEST BET or GOOD BET. Two boosters are not recommended because they don’t provide proper belt fit, and consumers are advised to avoid them.

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

IIHS evaluates models new to the market each year. Ratings of boosters with designs that carry over into the next model year remain on the list until the seats are discontinued. In all, the latest ratings cover 91 boosters.

“The IIHS ratings fill a gap in U.S. regulations,” says McCartt. “Our program helps ensure booster seats do what they’re supposed to do – improve belt fit.”

For more information go to www.iihs.org or email publications@iihs.org