How seriously do I need to heed these IIHS ratings?
The bottom line is that if you know how to make sure a booster fits properly on your child, in your vehicle, you can determine the best booster for your situation, even without ratings!
It’s important for parents to understand that these IIHS ratings are NOT based on crash testing results or even real-world usage with actual children who move around on their own. They are simply standardized assessments of how well each booster fits one particular crash test dummy (6-year-old Hybrid III) under 4 different conditions which represent a range of seatbelt geometries in various real-life vehicles. This rating system doesn’t guarantee that a ”Best Bet” product will fit your child better than a model that is listed as “Check Fit,” especially if your child is significantly larger or smaller than the 6-year-old Hybrid III dummy which weighs 51.6 lbs, has an overall height of almost 45″ tall, and a seated height of 25″.
When is my child ready to move into a booster?
Before we get to the IIHS ratings, consider that most child safety advocates suggest that kids be at least 4-5 years old before moving from a 5-point harness to a booster. Even at age 4 or 5, some kids will not be mature enough to remain seated properly in a booster. Squirming, slouching, continually leaning out of position or putting the shoulder belt behind their back or arm are all signs that the child may not be ready to handle the “freedom” of a booster seat. Thankfully, there are many 5-point harnessed seats on the market today which are rated to 65 lbs. or more and can accommodate bigger, older kids who still lack the maturity needed to be adequately protected in a booster seat. For more info on why boosters aren’t the best choice for preschool aged children, see our previous article Why 3-Year-Olds Have No Business Riding In Booster Seats
How long do children need to use boosters?
Belt-positioning boosters are recommended until the child can pass the 5-step Test in each vehicle they ride in. For most kids, passing the 5-Step Test generally occurs at some point between ages 10-12 when the vast majority of kids reach the size of a small adult. Of course some kids who are at the top of the height charts, or off the charts completely, might get to that point by age 8 or 9 but the average 8-10 year old really does still need a little “boost” to help the adult seatbelt fit the way it’s designed to fit a full-sized adult.
Is a high back booster safer than a backless booster?
Any booster that provides optimal fit of the lap and shoulder belt will provide a good deal of protection in a crash. However, if your child frequently falls asleep in the car, then a highback booster with deep headwings is generally a better choice since the wings will help your child stay in the necessary upright position. A highback booster may also be necessary to protect against the possibility of whiplash if your vehicle’s backseat doesn’t have head restraints. Additionally, a highback booster may provide some protective benefits during a side-impact crash.
What are the criteria for optimal belt fit?
The lap belt portion of the lap/shoulder seatbelt should be low across the strong hip bones; touching the tops of the child’s thighs. It should not be positioned across the child’s abdomen where it can injure soft internal organs in a crash. The shoulder belt should make contact with the child’s chest and be centered across the collar bone.
Should I freak out and buy a different booster because the one I have didn’t get a “Best Bet” or “Good Bet” rating?
Well, I’m going to be blunt here and tell you that if your kid is riding around in a booster that has a “Not Recommended” rating then you probably do need to get a different booster seat. You should still assess the situation first because there is a slim chance that maybe it’s positioning the seatbelt correctly on your child in your vehicle. But chances are, it’s not. The two seats currently on the “Not Recommended” list are notorious for doing a lousy job in booster mode. There is nothing wrong with them if they’re being used with the 5-point harness, but in booster mode these models just don’t do a good job of positioning the seatbelt properly on most kids.
If your booster didn’t receive a “Best Bet” or even a “Good Bet” rating, it may still provide good protection for your child, but regardless, you need to check the belt fit. If it doesn’t fit optimally, try a different seating position in your vehicle to see if it works better in a different spot. And make sure you read the instruction manual that came with your booster! You would be shocked at the number of mistakes many parents make when using booster seats. Everyone thinks it’s a no-brainer so most people don’t read and follow the instruction manual. And guess what happens when you don’t read and follow the instruction manual? I’ll let you figure out the answer to that one all on your own.
Okay, enough rambling about the really important things – let’s get to the ratings!
Truth be told, with a few notable exceptions (that I’m not going to get into right now), we think highly of most of the models listed on the BEST BETS list. In total, there are now 58 boosters with a BEST BET rating and another 5 with a GOOD BET rating. These totals include models carried over from previous rounds of IIHS testing. Below is a list of most current models with a Best Bet rating from IIHS. Boosters that are included on our own “Recommended Carseats” list are followed with an *.
|Britax 2013 Parkway SG (highback mode) *|
|Britax 2013 Parkway SGL (highback mode) *|
|BubbleBum (backless) *|
|Clek Oobr (highback mode) *|
|Cosco Pronto (highback mode)|
|Diono Monterey (highback mode) *|
|Diono Radian R100 (highback)|
|Diono Radian R120 (highback)|
|Diono Radian RXT (highback) *|
|Eddie Bauer Auto Booster (highback mode)|
|Evenflo Amp (backless) *|
|Evenflo Big Kid LX (backless mode)|
|Evenflo Big Kid Amp (backless mode)|
|Evenflo Big Kid Sport (backless mode)|
|Evenflo Chase (highback)|
|Evenflo Maestro (highback) *|
|Evenflo RightFit (highback and backless modes)|
|Evenflo Secure Kid 300/400 (highback) *|
|Evenflo Symphony 65 e3/DLX (highback) *|
|Ferrari Beline SP (backless mode)|
|Ferrari Dreamway SP (highback mode)|
|Graco Affix (highback and backless modes)|
|Graco Argos 70 (highback mode) *|
|Graco Argos 70 Elite (highback mode) *|
|Graco Connext (backless) *|
|Graco Nautilus (highback mode) *|
|Graco Nautilus Elite (highback mode) *|
|Graco Nautilus Plus (highback mode)|
|Graco Nautilus with Safety Surround (highback mode)|
|Graco TurboBooster (highback and backless modes) *|
|Graco TurboBooster Elite(highback and backless modes)|
|Graco TurboBooster Safety Surround (highback and backless modes) *|
|Harmony Cruz/Carpooler (backless)|
|Harmony Dreamtime (highback and backless modes)|
|Harmony Olympian (backless)|
|Harmony V6 Highback (highback and backless modes)|
|Harmony Transit Deluxe (backless)|
|Harmony Youth Booster (backless) *|
|Kiddy Cruiserfix Pro (highback) *|
|Kiddy World Plus (highback)|
|Kids Embrace Dale Earnhardt Jr. (highback)|
|Maxi-Cosi Rodi XR (highback mode)|
|Recaro Performance SPORT (highback) *|
|Recaro Vivo (highback) *|
|Safety 1st Boost Air Protect (highback mode)|
|Safety 1st BoostAPak (backless)|
|Safety 1st Rumi Air/Essential Air (highback)|
|The First Years Pathway B570 (highback)|
|Combi Kobuk Air Thru (backless and highback mode)|
|Evenflo Symphony 65 (highback mode) *|
|Ferari Beline SP (highback mode)|
|Maxi-Cosi Rodi (highback mode)|
You can find the full 2013 IIHS Booster Evaluation press release here along with some nice photos of proper lap and shoulder belt fit. Stay tuned to CarseatBlog.com and www.car-seat.org for more coverage and commentary on the 2013 IIHS Booster Ratings!