MANY BOOSTER SEATS AREN’T UP TO THE JOB
OF IMPROVING SAFETY BELT FIT FOR CHILDREN


Booster seats are meant to do one thing — elevate children so that
safety belts designed for adults are in the right position to restrain kids during
a crash.

Thirteen of the 41 belt-positioning booster seats the Insurance Institute
for Highway Safety evaluated with the University of Michigan Transportation Research
Institute last October did such a poor job of improving the fit of lap and shoulder belts for
children that the Institute doesn’t recommend them at all.

Ten models are best bets and 5 are good bets. These evaluations are the first to tell consumers how
well boosters sold by US retailers improve belt fit for children in cars, minivans,
and SUVs. The Institute plans to continue these assessments.

“We evaluated the safety belt fit boosters provide, not crash protection,” says Institute
president Adrian Lund. “This is because unlike child restraints, boosters don’t
restrain children in crashes. They simply position children so lap and shoulder belts
are in the right place to restrain them.” Good boosters route belts across a child’s
bony parts, not soft parts like the abdomen, which is more vulnerable to injury.

“We’d expect the 10 best bets to improve belt fit for children in almost any car,
minivan, or SUV,” Lund says. “Likewise, it’s clear that kids in the 13 boosters
we don’t recommend aren’t getting the full benefit of improved lap belt fit. These
boosters may increase restraint use by making children more comfortable, but they
don’t position belts for optimal protection.”

Researchers at the University of Michigan Transportation Research Institute assessed
2 types of boosters, backless and highback, under conditions representing a range of
2001-06 model vehicles. Some highbacks convert to backless, and some boosters,
called combination seats, can be used as child restraints. Highback and backless
modes were evaluated separately because each mode affects how belts fit.

More importance was assigned to lap belt fit. All of the best-bet boosters locate this belt on
children’s upper thighs. The main problem for the boosters that aren’t recommended
is they leave the lap belt partially or fully on the abdomen. Fit is important because
a correctly positioned lap belt loads pelvic bones during a crash, not the
abdomen. A good booster also positions the shoulder belt at midshoulder, keeping the
webbing away from the neck so it won’t chafe and reducing the likelihood that kids
will endanger themselves by putting the belt behind their back or under an arm.
“Our data show it’s possible to design a booster with good lap and shoulder belt
fit,” says Matt Reed, the study’s lead author and research associate professor at
the University of Michigan Transportation Research Institute. “Boosters that can’t
do that should be redesigned.”

Not Recommended
Safety Angel Ride Ryte backless
Cosco/Dorel (Eddie Bauer) Summit
Graco CarGo Zephyr
Evenflo Big Kid Confidence
Cosco/Dorel Traveler
Compass B505
Compass B510
Evenflo Generations
Dorel/Safety 1st (Eddie Bauer) Prospect
Cosco Highback Booster
Cosco/Dorel Alpha Omega
Evenflo Chase Comfort Touch
Safety 1st/Dorel Intera
Note: Unless the booster name indicates that
it is a backless seat, all boosters are highbacks.
Go to iihs.org for the full list of model numbers
and manufacture dates.
Best Bets
Graco TurboBooster backless with clip
Fisher-Price Safe Voyage backless with clip
Combi Kobuk backless with clip
Fisher-Price Safe Voyage
Britax Parkway
LaRoche Bros. Teddy Bear
Safeguard Go backless with clip
Volvo booster cushion
Recaro Young Style
Britax Monarch
Good Bets
Graco TurboBooster
Safety Angel Ride Ryte
Recaro Young Sport
Combi Kobuk
Safety 1st/Dorel Apex 65

Posted 12:57 AM  View Comments

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