Record 27 new booster seats earn highest IIHS rating

The ranks of top-rated booster seats continue to grow as manufacturers design models to earn high marks in the Institute’s annual booster seat evaluations, plus offer the style and convenience parents look for when it’s time to pick a safe seat for their booster-age children. Among the 41 models new for 2014, there are 27 BEST BET seats — more than in any prior year — and three GOOD BETs. Eight boosters are in a category the Institute calls “Check Fit,” and there are three new models that the Institute doesn’t recommend using as boosters. Prices for BEST BET boosters start around $25 and go up to about $370, depending on features, and several models are LATCH compatible. Boosters earn a rating of BEST BET, GOOD BET, Check Fit or Not Recommended, based on a protocol that involves measuring how three-point lap and shoulder belts fit a child-size test dummy seated in the booster on a stationary test fixture. Measurements are taken under four conditions spanning the range of safety belt configurations in passenger vehicles. The evaluations focus on belt fit and don’t involve crash tests. A BEST BET booster correctly positions belts on a typical 4-to-8-year-old child in almost any car, minivan or SUV. A GOOD BET provides acceptable belt fit in most vehicles. Correct belt fit means that the lap belt lies flat across a child’s upper thighs, and the shoulder belt crosses snugly over the middle of the shoulder. The Check Fit designation means that the booster may provide good belt fit for some children in some vehicles, but not as many as boosters that earn either of the top two ratings. Belt fit can vary depending on child size and vehicle model. Before buying these boosters, parents should try them out to see if they properly position safety belts on their children in the vehicles they will ride in. In addition to information on models new this year, IIHS maintains ratings for older booster seats still on the market. Altogether, IIHS has ratings for 69 BEST BET and eight GOOD BET boosters, 35 Check Fit boosters and five Not Recommended seats for 2014. Children should stay in a harness-equipped child restraint in the back seat as long as possible, up to the height and weight limits of the seat as recommended by the seat manufacturer. Parents can find this information on the child seat label and in the instruction manual. When children outgrow child restraints, they should use boosters until adult belts fit properly. For some children, that’s not until about age 12. Children ages 4-8 in boosters are 45 percent less likely to sustain injuries in crashes than kids restrained by belts alone. Children who are using improperly fitted belts are at risk of a host of crash injuries known as “seat belt syndrome.” These include spine injuries and internal organ injuries. Boosters help by elevating a child into position and guiding the belts for better protection.