Record number of car booster seats earn top grade from IIHS

John Egan 

Manufacturers have given a big boost to car booster seats for kids.

For the first time ever, child booster seats earning the highest “Best Bet” rating from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety outnumber those in the group’s three other rating categories. The nonprofit institute has been testing booster seats since 2008.

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

In all, 47 booster seats earned “Best Bet” ratings for 2012. The new rankings include new models, plus older top-rated designs still on the market. Five seats received “Good Bet” ratings, meaning they offer an acceptable belt fit in most vehicles. The 37 boosters in the “Check Fit” category may provide a good fit for some kids in some vehicles, but not as much as “Best Bet” or “Good Bet” seats do.

Institute urges redesign of two seats

Two booster seats got thumbs-down from the institute because they don’t provide a proper belt fit. They are the Safety 1st All-in-One and the Safety 1st Alpha Omega Elite, both made by Dorel Juvenile Group Inc.

In a news release, Dorel Juvenile Group points out that five of its booster seats received “Best Bet” or “Good Bet” ratings from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS). Dorel Juvenile Group’s president and CEO, Dave Taylor, says: “Children’s safety and providing parents and caregivers the best protection for their children is built into everything we do and everything we produce.”

McCartt says Dorel “should redesign the All-in-One and Alpha Omega Elite to improve booster function. Parents who own these seats should use them with the built-in harness as long as possible, up to Dorel’s recommended height and weight limits.”

In most states, child passengers are required to ride in booster seats until they are 8 years old and meet state-mandated weight and height requirements.

Boosters are supposed to improve how adult lap and shoulder belts fit children so the belts can adequately protect them in car crashes. “Best Bet” booster seats correctly position belts on a typical 4- to 8-year-old child in almost any car, minivan or SUV, the safety institute says.

As with any booster seat, parents should 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, IIHS says. If not, parents should try a different seat.

The best and the rest

Here’s the IIHS list of booster seats and their ratings:

Best Bet

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) Diono Monterey (highback mode) Diono RadianR100 Diono RadianR120 Diono RadianRXT Eddie Bauer Auto Booster (highback mode) Evenflo Big Kid Amp Evenflo Big Kid Amp High Back (backless mode) Evenflo Big Kid Sport (backless mode) Evenflo Maestro Evenflo Secure Kid LX/DLX Evenflo Symphony 65 e3 Ferrari Dreamway SP (highback mode) Graco Argos 70 (highback mode) Graco Backless TurboBooster Graco Nautilus (highback mode) Graco TurboBooster (backless mode) Graco TurboBooster (highback mode) Graco TurboBooster COLORZ Graco TurboBooster Elite (backless mode) Graco TurboBooster Elite (highback mode) Graco TurboBooster Safety Surround (backless mode) Graco TurboBooster Safety Surround (highback mode) Harmony Carpooler Harmony Cruz Youth Booster Harmony Dreamtime Booster (backless mode) Harmony Dreamtime Booster (highback mode) Harmony Olympian Harmony V6 Highback Booster (backless mode) Harmony V6 Highback Booster (highback mode) Harmony Youth Booster Seat Kiddy Cruiserfix Pro Kiddy World Plus 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 Rumi Air/Essential Air The First Years Pathway B570

Good Bet

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

Safety 1st All-in-One Safety 1st Alpha Omega Elite

For more information, including a list of the booster seats that got the “Check Fit” rating, visit http://www.iihs.org/research/topics/boosters/default.html.

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