Boosters are better than ever at fitting the “gap” kids: those kids ages 4-8 who should be in belt-positioning boosters, but are often taken out of harnessed seats when they outgrow them. Those of us who are in child passenger safety know that children really don’t size out of boosters until ages 10-11, ages that typically shock most parents. That means that children are in belt-positioning booster seats longer than any other type of child restraint.

What are the current restraint recommendations? The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends:

  • All infants and toddlers should ride in a rear-facing car safety seat (CSS) until they are 2 years of age or until they reach the highest weight or height allowed by the manufacturer of their CSS.
  • All children 2 years or older, or those younger than 2 years who have outgrown the rear-facing weight or height limit for their CSS, should use a forward-facing CSS with a harness for as long as possible, up to the highest weight or height allowed by the manufacturer of their CSS.
  • All children whose weight or height is above the forward-facing limit for their CSS should use a belt-positioning booster seat until the vehicle lap-and-shoulder seat belt fits properly, typically when they have reached 4 feet 9 inches in height and are between 8 and 12 years of age.
  • When children are old enough and large enough to use the vehicle seat belt alone, they should always use lap-and-shoulder seatbelts for optimal protection.
  • All children younger than 13 years should be restrained in the rear seats of vehicles for optimal protection.

The Insurance Institute of Highway Safety (IIHS) began testing boosters for fit in 2008 and only 10 boosters rated a “Best Bet.” This year, 15 of 17 belt-positioning booster seats introduced in 2012 earned a “Best Best” rating and overall, there are a total of 47 “Best Bet” boosters. That’s fantastic and means more choices for consumers than ever before. But ultimately, what does that mean for you as a consumer of a safety product? After all, you want the safest product for your most precious cargo.

The IIHS uses a 6 year old dummy to test belt fit in the boosters. Boosters aren’t crash tested in these tests; they’re reviewed only for fit on the 6 year old dummy. How do you know if your booster fits *your* child well? After all, a dummy is stiff and doesn’t move all over the place like a real life child does. The shoulder belt should fall across the middle of the shoulder, slightly closer to the neck than the edge of the shoulder. The lap belt should ride low on the lap, touching the tops of the thighs.

  This picture shows good shoulder belt fit.

  This picture shows good lap belt fit. It’s low, touching the thighs.

  This picture shows poor lap belt fit. It’s resting up on the belly.

Really, while the IIHS ratings are a great help to parents as a starting off point for finding boosters that are most likely to fit in the widest variety of vehicles, only *you* are the best judge of what may work in *your* situation. Certain extreme seat belt geometries, such as when the shoulder belt comes out from behind the child’s shoulder or in front of the child’s body, may mean that a “Good Fit” booster on the IIHS list is a “Best Bet” booster for you.

Shall we get on with the list? Yes! We’ve indicated with a * which “Best Bet” boosters are on our own Recommended Carseats list and as much as we’d love to add all the seats to our recommended list, we simply can’t. Bolded items on the list are new for 2012.

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 Radian R100
Diono Radian R120
*Diono Radian RXT
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 Bets

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)

Check Fit

Britax Parkway SG (backless mode)
Britax Parkway SGL (backless mode)
Chicco KeyFit Strada (backless mode)
Clek Olli
Clek Oobr (backless mode)
Clek Ozzi
Cosco Ambassador
Cosco Highback Booster
Cosco Pronto (backless mode)
Cosco Top Side
Diono/Sunshine Kids Monterey (backless mode)
Diono/Sunshine Kids Santa Fe
Eddie Bauer Auto Booster (backless mode)
Evenflo Big Kid Amp (highback mode)
Evenflo Big Kid LX (backless mode)
Evenflo Big Kid LX (highback mode)
Evenflo Big Kid No Back Booster
Evenflo Big Kid Sport (highback mode)
Ferrari Dreamway SP (backless mode)
Ferrari Ola
Graco Argos 70 (backless mode)
Graco Nautilus  (backless mode)
Graco Nautilus Elite (backless mode)
Graco Nautilus Elite (highback mode)
Graco Smart Seat
Maxi-Cosi Rodi (backless mode)
Maxi-Cosi Rodi XR (backless mode)
Safety 1st Boost Air Protect (backless mode)
Safety 1st Go Hybrid
Safety 1st Summit
Safety 1st Vantage
Safety 1st Ventura
The First Years Compass B505
The First Years Compass B530
The First Years Compass B540
Volvo Booster (backless mode)
Volvo Booster (highback mode)

Not Recommended

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

space

The 2012 update is in the most recent IIHS Status Report. You’ll want to stay close to CarseatBlog.com because you know that good things happen for our readers when good news is released ;).