Kecia has already covered the IIHS results in great detail. Other organizations and manufacturers have also responded to these new ratings. For example, the JPMA has released a response. They make a number of reasonable points, many of which parallel some of Kecia’s comments. I do find it a little disingenuous that they are, “not aware of any reports of abdominal injury in crashes in booster car seats.” Closing your eyes to the reality of a poorly designed or improperly fitted booster seat does not mean the problem simply does not exist. In defense of these new ratings, the IIHS may well identify some products that can be improved because they don’t work as well in as many situations. The JPMA believes the primary purpose of a belt positioning booster is to lift up and reposition a child so the vehicle seat fits better. We think the primary purpose is more basic: to reduce the risk of injury as much as possible. Lifting and repositioning is a major part of that. Doing it in a manner that fits the greatest number of kids in the widest variety of vehicles is also an important part. The criteria used by the IIHS have been widely recognized as being necessary for proper fit for a long time. Shame on the JPMA for failing to recognize that boosters designs vary greatly and that they can be improved and be made even safer with new innovations.
Safe Kids USA has issued a short response that is right to the point. The fit of any booster is most important when evaluated with your child, in your vehicle. We agree. It’s great if the booster provided a good fit for the IIHS 6-year dummy in their various test configurations. That does not always mean it will provide the same fit in your unique situation. It may fit better with your child or it could be worse. Ultimately, you don’t need to worry much about what works for the IIHS or someone else’s child, you need to make sure that it works for your child.
So, what should the typical parent take away from the IIHS report and responses? Exactly what Safe Kids USA said. Don’t panic! Take these ratings for what they are. They show that not all boosters are created equal. That is very true. Some will fit your child well in your car. Some will not. The reality is that the IIHS can’t tell you what is going to work in your specific situation. It may well be the case that their “best bets” are more likely to fit kids of various sizes in a wider variety of vehicles, but not always. Just as we said last year in response to the first IIHS test results, you really have to check for correct fit yourself to be sure your child is safe. The 5-step test is a great way to check to see if your child fits well in a seatbelt, with or without a booster.
And what if you find that your booster doesn’t fit your child very well? Maybe it was a “Best Bet” or maybe not. The easiest thing to do is to try another spot in your vechicle. It may work better there. After that, perhaps a new booster would work better. And nothing is better than free! So, be sure to enter for our booster giveaway contests this week at CarseatBlog and Car-Seat.Org!