News Archive

IIHS Check Fit Booster Ratings and the Britax Frontier 90


Considering buying a Britax Frontier 90 or Pinnacle 90 Harness-2-Booster seat?  Maybe you already bought one, based on our reviews or because they appeared on our recommended seats list?  Perhaps you have recently seen or heard that the IIHS did not give your carseat a “Best Best” or “Good Bet” rating and you are now wondering if it is safe to use?  Don’t Panic!  “Check Fit” does NOT mean “Unsafe”!

So what does a “Check Fit” rating from the IIHS mean?  Quite simply, it means you have to check how well the booster fits your own child, in your own vehicle.  Install the booster in your vehicle, buckle and route the seat belt, all according to the instructions in the owner’s manual.  Ideally, the lap belt should be fairly flat on the upper thigh, not up on the tummy.  The shoulder belt should be centered on the shoulder; it should not be falling off the shoulder or rest on the child’s neck.  What if it doesn’t fit well?  Keep using it for now to keep your child safe and read on for some suggestions to improve the safety for your child!  For more on booster fit, please see CarseatBlog’s coverage of the 2013 IIHS Booster Ratings.

The first important thing to note is that the new 2013 IIHS Booster Ratings are not results of dynamic crash tests.  Second, they do not consider ease-of-use or additional safety features at all.  The evaluations are only measurements of seatbelt fit to an average 4 to 8 year-old child using these seats in booster mode in a few vehicle seating scenarios.  Finally, these ratings DO NOT apply at all if you are using these or any other combination booster seat in the 5-point harness mode.  In regard to harness use, CarseatBlog agrees with the American Academy of Pediatrics, “All children whose weight or height is above the forward-facing limit for their [5-point harness] Child Safety Seat 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. There is a safety advantage for young children to remain in Child Safety Seats with a harness for as long as possible before transitioning to booster seats.”

How does the IIHS know if a booster will fit your child and vehicle?  Good question!  They evaluate booster fit on a standard dummy, representative of a typical 6-year old child, measured in four scenarios that mimic real vehicle use.   What if your child is a different size than the dummy or you have a vehicle that varies significantly from any of their test scenarios?  That could mean the booster fits somewhat better or worse than the rating suggests, but overall the ratings should still provide meaningful comparisons.  CarseatBlog recommends that parents consult the IIHS Booster Ratings, as they are a great place to start and generally reflect a range of children and vehicles.  We do caution that their evaluations do not always apply directly to every possible combination of child and vehicle.  That means that a model that earned a “Best Bet” may not fit ideally with your child and vehicle.  Similarly, a model that earned a “Check Fit” rating may provide a good fit for your child, in your particular vehicle.

So, a lower rating does not necessarily mean your child is less safe, unless you check yourself and find the belt fit to be marginal or poor in booster mode, of course.  For example, I found the seatbelt fit of a Britax Frontier 90 (“Check Fit” rating) in booster mode to be very reasonable on my 8-year old child in a couple of popular vehicles, a Toyota Highlander and Prius.


As mentioned in the video, it is worthwhile to note that the Britax Frontier 90 and Pinnacle 90 have among the highest seated torso height limits for the 5-point harness system of any combination harness/booster carseat.  That means most kids can use the harness until they are 8 years old or possibly even older.  That is a very safe option if you did happen to find that the seatbelt did not fit your child well in booster mode, especially on younger or less mature children who may benefit most from the extra points of restraint in a 5-point harness system.

IIHS 2013 Booster Seat Ratings – Making Sense of the Best Bets, Check Fit & Not Recommended Ratings


lap and shoulder belt fitPlease use these links to our updated IIHS 2014 Booster Seat Ratings Information:

CarseatBlog’s Coverage of the 2014 IIHS Booster Seat Ratings

2014 IIHS Booster Ratings Commentary


You will see it all over the news today and tomorrow. It will be on national morning shows, local news broadcasts, in newspapers and online. There will be a lot of good information, but there will also be the usual misinformation. Is your child as safe as possible just because you bought a booster that has a 2013 IIHS ”Best Bet” rating? Should you panic if you have one that is rated “Check Fit”? Does that mean it’s dangerous or unsafe?

Here at CarseatBlog, our job is to help guide you through the wonderful but overwhelming world of child occupant protection. Here you’ll get info and straight answers from experts in the field who are also parents, just like you. We’ve been around this block a few times already so allow us to help you sort through the mountains of information.

Baby Trend Handle News


Baby Trend InertiaBaby Trend has released probably the best news ever! All Baby Trend infant seat handles may now be left in the up position in the vehicle. This is particularly good news for parents who own small cars and purchased Baby Trend infant seats, only to find out afterward that the handle was to be left in the down position while traveling in the vehicle. Baby Trend infant seats have the trademark triangular-shaped handle that, while comfortable to carry, take up a lot of space when rotated back.

As always, CarseatBlog and Baby Trend caution against hanging toys off the handle when it’s in the up position. Despite being crash tested in the up position now, Baby Trend does still recommend  keeping the handle back if you have enough space to do so in your vehicle. But now you can feel secure knowing that the handle can stay safely up.

Safe Kids Finds Shocking Behaviors


cps_infographic_2013_for_webWe are in the midst of CPS Week 2013 culminating on Saturday with Seat Check Saturday. To celebrate, because really, we CPS techs like to party believe it or not 😉 , Safe Kids Worldwide released the results of a study with some very shocking findings.

We know that vehicle crashes are leading killers of kids; for kids 5 and older, it’s the leading cause of death (see graphs pulled from the WISQARS national database on injury-related data). After reading the study released by Safe Kids Worldwide, we now understand a little bit more why they may be dying in the numbers we’re seeing and it’s truly shocking. We should be ashamed.

2010 Unintentional Deaths 1-4  2010 Unintentional Deaths 5-9  2010 Unintentional Deaths 10-14

1002 parents and caregivers of children aged 10 and under were surveyed online as to their buckling practices and the results were disappointing. Twenty-four percent of parents (for brevity, I’m leaving off the word “caregiver,” but they’re included as well) have at one time or another not restrained their children. There weren’t a lot of differences in gender (no blaming the hubby here!), but Ed level chartthere was an interesting difference in education level. It turns out that those with the most education, such as a graduate degree, were more likely to say it was acceptable for a child to ride unrestrained than parents with a high school or college-level education. What the? Maybe now the whole pediatrician giving out bad advice thing is starting to make sense.

Along with rise in education, as income rises, so does the apparent acceptability for not restraining children. The excuses range from “I’m not driving far” to “rewarding the child” to child “keeps climbing out.” Perhaps when child passenger safety technicians Income chartcomment on parents’ carseat practices, we are actually commenting on their parenting abilities because like it or not, “rewarding a child” and not buckling a child because they “keep climbing out” is pretty poor parenting. In the past, I’ve always sworn up and down that I’m not commenting on a parent’s child-rearing abilities when I tell them that they aren’t tightening the harness enough, but damn, if you’re not buckling Billy because he got an A on his spelling test, I do have to question your parenting skills. Billy may not live to see his next spelling test because of that reward. Give him a hug instead, which he’ll appreciate a lot better.

For kids under age 12 who were killed in vehicle crashes in 2011, fully 1/3 were unrestrained. These are preventable deaths. Certainly there are crashes so severe that they are unsurvivable, but let’s at least give these kids a fighting chance. As children grow older, they are more likely to be unrestrained. Parents understand that babies need to be restrained properly, but that’s not carrying over to older children. Perhaps it’s the ease of use of infant seats that can be buckled in the house vs. in the vehicle, perhaps it’s the fast pace of American life where we spend so much time running from one activity to another with a cell phone plastered to our ears (let’s not get started on *that* one, shall we?), perhaps it’s thinking that older children should be able to buckle themselves when they really can’t due to dexterity or maturity issues—whatever it is, we should take the time to always ALWAYS buckle everyone in the vehicle, even if driving from one store to another in the same parking lot. It only takes a minor crash to cause a giant catastrophe that can change your life forever.

Unrestrained fatalities chart

To make sure that your carseat or belt-positioning booster seat is being used properly, please take advantage of Seat Check Saturday this Saturday, September 21. Because it’s a special day, there should be more events planned than usual, so it should be easier to find one in your area. Nationally, it’s said that 80% of carseats are installed or used incorrectly, but I know that in my city, that number is 96%. That’s scary! So take advantage of FREE events! We’re here to help you install and use your carseats—we want to help and we want to make sure that everyone in your vehicle is safe. It’s what we do.


Thank you to Safe Kids Worldwide for permission to use charts and graphics!