Since 2009, the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety has been annually releasing their IIHS booster ratings, based primarily on fit of the 6 year old dummy, and, as we all know, fit is the best indication of performance. No matter how much bling your booster has, if it doesn’t place the seatbelt properly on your child, it can’t do its job. For a quick review, let’s look at what a seatbelt should look like on a child with an excellent booster and belt fit.
Markers of a poor booster fit include a lap belt that is either too high on the tummy (putting the organs and spine at risk) or too low on the thighs (and yes, there is such a thing as too low!). You may also see a shoulder sash that comes off the edge of the child’s shoulder, or touches the child’s neck, or hovers in front of the child’s chest instead of crossing the torso firmly and evenly. It’s crucial that children who are at least 5, have outgrown their harnessed seats, and do not yet fit an adult belt safely continue to use belt positioning boosters until they are 10-12 years of age. Our booster seat science article explains more about this critical safety step. What DOES a big kid in a booster look like? Is that even realistic? Read more information on very big kids in boosters! Not sure if your younger Little is even ready for the booster? Our harness or bootster, when to make the switch article can help you decide when to make that call.
What Kinds of Seats are Evaluated?
The Institute evaluates belt positioning boosters. Belt positioning boosters may be found as stand alone seats, or as a mode of a child restraint which performs multiple functions
1. Backless Boosters: Backless boosters have a seat portion placed under the child, and as the name indicates, no back.
2. High Back Boosters: High back boosters have both a seat portion, a back and a head rest
3. Combination Seats: Combination seats work as a forward facing harness, then as a high back booster, and sometimes as a backless booster
4. Multi-Mode Seats: Multi-Mode seats have a rear facing function, a forward facing harness, a high back booster function, and sometimes a backless booster function
If you are in the market for a new belt positioning booster for your older child, you probably won’t be looking at combination seats or multi-mode seats at the store, but parents who bought them for younger children earlier may eventually plan to convert them into booster mode.
What Does The Rating Mean?
There are some things you need to consider before reading the evaluations.
1. Keep Calm
2. Don’t Panic
3. Keep using your booster for now, even if it’s not on the best bet list!
IIHS tests the fit against the Hybrid III 6 year old child dummy. While crash test dummies do an excellent job mimicking statistical generalities, they are not representative of individual children. While a booster may not give a great fit on the dummy, or even on a particular real child, it might give a GREAT fit on your child, and that’s what matters. Keep in mind this is NOT a crash test. All seats on the list have been self-certified as passing the stringent FMVSS 213 requirements for belt positioning boosters.
If you read this article, review the list, examine the fit of your specific child, and realize that maybe it’s not ideal, you may wish to consider purchasing another booster. At that point, reviewing our list of recommended high back and backless boosters might help you organize your shopping list.
In 2009, not even a sixth of the boosters IIHS evaluated made the highest rating. This outside pressure on the industry caused rapid reform and improvment and in 6 short years, almost all the boosters on the market now will provide an excellent fit on the 6 year old crash dummy.
Furthermore, no new boosters have been introduced since the 2014 IIHS ratings were relased to garner the poorest rating. Several manufacturers have continued to make improvements on market products. The oft-maligned Safety 1st Alpha Omega has finally been retired (thank you, Dorel!). While the Safety 1st Summit and Eddie Bauer High Back continue to provide a poor fit, we are hopeful Dorel will address this in the coming year.
The following list is the newest addition to the IIHS booster rating. This does not include many boosters on the market that have been rated in previous years by IIHS.
|Make and Model||Best Bet||Good Bet||Check Fit||Not Recommended|
|KidFit (high back)||√|
|Cambria (high back)||√|
|Advanced Transitions (high back)||√|
|Advanced Transitions (backless)||√|
|Platinum Evolve (high back)||√|
|Platinum Evolve (backless)||√|
|Tranzitions (high back)||√|
|Defender (high back)||√|
|Highback Booster (high back)||√|
|HighBack Booster (backless)||√|
|Grow and Go||√|
Only three seats have been added to the overall good bet list. The Safety 1st Grow and Go, Dorel’s long awaited upgrade to the Alpha Omega, makes an appearance here. We’re sure the folks at Dorel have let out a collective sigh of relief. Two of the Cybex boosters currently available garnered a Good Bet rating. This means that the likelihood is high that if your child fits by all other stipulations (in the height, weight, and required fitment ranges), the child will have a good belt fit.
Best Bets provided a good belt fit for almost all children in almost all vehicles.
20 of the 23 reviewed seats earned an IIHS bet for 2015. We continue to be pleased that there are so many options, in all price points, for parents to choose from
Do you have a question or concern about your booster? First, read this guide to fitting your booster correctly. Then, keep using the one you own, and make an appointment with a Child Passenger Safety Technician today to help you evaluate the belt fit. If it’s an urgent concern, feel free to contact us via the contact us button on this website, or through any of our social media channels.