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2014 IIHS Booster Ratings: Where Does Your Booster Rank?

 

Top Rated Child Booster Seats: IIHS Awards 27 Best Bets

IIHS Booster-fitting-testParents searching for a great fitting booster won’t have to look far anymore because manufacturers are doing a great job of getting belt fit right, according to the Insurance Institute of Highway Safety. The IIHS has just released their 2014 survey of 41 booster models and a record 27 models received their “Best Bet” designation, more than any other year since they began rating boosters in 2009. Belt fit is determined by fitting a 6 year old dummy in each booster and seeing how the seat belt lies across the shoulder and the thighs. The booster is then given a rating of either “Best Bet,” “Good Bet,” “Check Fit,” or “Not Recommended.”

A recent Safe Kids Worldwide survey shows that the vast majority of parents, 9 out of 10, still don’t know how long their kids should be using boosters and are moving them from booster seats when they are still too small. Parents based their decisions on things like state laws, which often lag far behind safety standards, their child’s comfort, and their spouse’s opinion. It’s often said that children need to be 4’9” (57”) tall and around age 8 to ride safely without a booster seat, but our experience here at CarseatBlog is that our children have been much taller and older than that before they fit in our seat belts well. Seat belts are designed to fit adults and children don’t become adult-sized until around ages 10-12.

Kiddy Cruiserfix Pro Evenflo SecureKid  - booster mode Kids Embrace - Turtle Booster

If your older kid or tween objects to riding in a booster, try the Safety 1st Incognito Kid-Positioning Seat. It doesn’t look like a booster seat and boosts bigger kids up just enough; it’s an awesome choice for them and their carpool friends.

Jack Incognito

One thing the Safe Kids survey doesn’t address is parents who move their children to boosters too early. Moving a child from a harnessed seat to a booster, especially a backless model, before the child is big enough can be deadly. It’s especially important to follow the minimum weight limit listed for the booster seat and remember that a child should remain harnessed until age 4 at the *very* minimum. If a kid puts the shoulder belt under her arm or behind her back, she can be ejected from the booster seat in a crash.

To see if your child can ride safely without a booster seat or kid positioner, have him try the 5-Step Test:

        1. Does the child sit all the way back on the vehicle seat?
        2. Are knees bent comfortably at the edge of the vehicle seat?
        3. Does seatbelt cross the shoulder properly? (it should be centered over the collar bone)
        4. Is the lap portion of the seatbelt low – touching the thighs?
        5. Can the child stay seated this way for the entire ride, every ride (awake and asleep)?

Bonus step – feet planted firmly on floor

Danny - passing the 5 Step Test with label Passing 5-Step Test

What do the ratings mean? A “Best Bet” rating means it should correctly position the seat belt on a typical 4-8 year old child in most vehicles. But remember, your vehicle may not be “most” vehicles and may have a different belt geometry. Always try before you buy, if you can, and hold onto the box and receipt in case you need to return the booster.

A “Good Bet” means that the belt fit will be acceptable in most vehicles and these boosters shouldn’t be automatically shunned because they aren’t “top tier.” “Check Fit” means just that: it may fit a larger child better than a smaller child in some vehicles or vice versa. I’ve used “Check Fit” boosters quite successfully before with my kids in my cars—it definitely doesn’t mean you should chuck the seat out with the baby’s bathwater.

What does good belt fit look like:

Recaro Performance Booster Recaro Performance Booster - lap belt fit


 

New or updated for 2014 booster models are listed in the tables below. Previous models that retain their ratings are listed after each section of the chart.

  '14 IIHS Best Bet Booster Logo Best Bet

Manufacturer and Model Can Use LATCH CarseatBlog Review CarseatBlog Recommended Seat
Baby Trend Hybrid 3-in-1 (Backless mode only; Highback mode rated Good Bet)
Baby Trend Hybrid No Back Booster
Britax Frontier 90   (Redesigned belt guides for 2014) Y  Review Y
Britax Pinnacle 90   (Redesigned belt guides for 2014) Y Review Y
Britax Pioneer 70   (Redesigned belt guides for 2014) Y  Review
BubbleBum Neon
Cosco Pronto (Highback mode only; Backless mode rated Check Fit)
Cybex Solution X-Fix  Y  Review
Diono Solana  Y
Dream On Me Turbo Booster (Highback mode only; Backless mode rated Check Fit)
Eddie Bauer Deluxe Belt-Positioning Booster (Highback mode only; Backless mode rated Check Fit)
Eddie Bauer Deluxe Highback 65
Evenflo Chase  Y
Evenflo Symphony 65  Y  Review Y
Graco 4Ever All-in-1  Y  Review
Graco Argos 80 Elite 3-in-1 (Highback and backless modes)  Y  Review
Graco Milestone All-in-One  Y  Review
Graco Nautilus 3-in-1 with Safety Surround (Highback mode only; Backless mode rated Check Fit)  Y  Review
Kids Embrace Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle  Y  Review
Maxi-Cosi Rodi AP (Highback mode only; Backless mode rated Check Fit)
Maxi-Cosi RodiFix  Y  Review Y
Peg Perego Viaggio HBB 120 (Highback mode only)  Y
Recaro Performance Booster  Y  Review
Safety 1st Store ‘n Go (Highback mode only)
Safety 1st Store ‘n Go No-Back
Safety 1st Summit 65

Previous models that retain their “Best Bet” ratings include the Britax Parkway SG, Britax Parkway SGL (highback mode only), BubbleBum, Clek Oobr (highback mode only), Diono Monterey (highback mode only), Diono Radian R100, Diono Radian R120, Diono Radian RXT, Evenflo Amp, Evenflo Big Kid Amp, Evenflo Big Kid Amp High Back (backless mode only), Evenflo Big Kid LX (backless mode only), Evenflo Big Kid Sport (backless mode only), Evenflo Maestro, Evenflo RightFit, Evenflo SecureKid 300/400, Ferari Beline SP (backless mode only), Ferari Dreamway SP (highback mode only), Graco Affix, Graco Backless TurboBooster,  Graco Nautilus (highback mode only), Graco Nautilus Elite (highback mode only), Graco Nautilus Plus (highback mode only), Harmony Carpooler, Harmony Dreamtime, Harmony Olympian, Harmony Transit Deluxe, Harmony V6 Highback, Harmony Youth Booster Seat, Kiddy Cruiserfix Pro, Kiddy World Plus, Recaro Performance Sport, Safety 1st Boost Air Protect (highback mode only) and Safety 1st BoostAPak.

Remember, even “Good Bet” boosters make excellent boosters if they fit your child and vehicle well:

Good Bet

Manufacturer and Model Can Use LATCH Review CarseatBlog Recommended Seat
Baby Trend Hybrid 3-in-1 (Highback mode only; Backless mode rated Best Bet)  Y
Cybex Solution Q-Fix Y  Review Y
Diono Rainier Y Review

Previous models that retain their “Good Bet” ratings include the Combi Kobuk Air Thru, Evenflo Symphony LX, Ferari Beline SP (highback mode only) and Maxi-Cosi Rodi (highback mode only).

Check Fit boosters simply mean you should check the fit of the seat belt on your child in your vehicle. The fit of the belt may be excellent on your child, as may be the case with a larger child while the belt fit may be marginal on a younger sibling.

Check Fit

Manufacturer and Model Can Use LATCH Review
Dream On Me Coupe Booster
Dream On Me Turbo Booster (Backless mode only; Highback mode rated Best Bet)
Eddie Bauer Deluxe Belt-Positioning Booster (Backless mode only; Highback mode rated Best Bet)
Graco Nautilus 3-in-1 with Safety Surround (Backless mode only; Highback mode rated Best Bet)  Review
Harmony Folding Travel Booster
Maxi-Cosi Rodi AP (Backless mode only; Highback mode rated Best Bet)
Peg Perego Viaggio HBB 120 (Backless mode only; Highback mode rated Best Bet)  Y
Safety 1st Store ‘n Go (Backless mode only; Highback mode rated Best Bet)

Boosters on the Not Recommended list are there because of poor seat belt fit in most situations. In these cases, it’s unlikely that child size or vehicle belt geometry will make a difference.

Not Recommended

Manufacturer and Model Can Use LATCH Review
Diono Olympia Y
Diono Pacifica Y
Kids Embrace Batman No Back Booster

For the complete 2014 IIHS Status Report, visit their website: http://www.iihs.org/iihs/sr/statusreport/article/49/9/1

Please note that many very good boosters are not included in our Recommended Carseats list.  This may be simply because we have not yet reviewed them.  In other cases, we may feel they were very good products, but just didn’t offer quite as much as others we did recommend.  Even if a product is not listed as a “CarseatBlog Recommended Seat”, it may still be worth consideration if it works well with your child and vehicle!

The GO is Back

Screen Shot 2014-11-04 at 10.38.07 AMPerhaps no car seat in history has had such a varied history as the GO.

The GO was originally launched by IMMI in 2006 as the SafeGuard GO. After a few improvements were made – it became the SafeGuard GO Hybrid. The design was then sold to Dorel, who marketed the seat as the Safety 1st GO Hybrid. The Safety 1st GO Hybrid was on our list of Recommended Seats until it was discontinued. Then the GO went away, only to pop up a few months ago as an exclusive car seat for Uber cars. Many people wondered if it would be available for individual purchase again, and…it finally is.

The seat is now back in the hands of IMMI (owners of SafeGuard) as the IMMI GO, and can be ordered through the IMMI Go website. It retails for $199, and is currently available in only one color (black leather). There are no plans for other colors or fabrics in the immediate future.

The GO is a unique seat in that it doesn’t have a hard shell. The forward-facing harness is connected to a solid bottom (that can be used on its own as a backless booster), and a flexible back that is held in place by a top tether. Because of this, the GO must be installed in a location with a top tether anchor when using it as a harness. The benefit of the GO is that it’s a fantastic travel seat since it caScreen Shot 2014-11-04 at 10.38.43 AMn fold down to a size just larger than a backless booster, and comes with its own travel bag.

The IMMI GO appears a bit different than the previous models. Instead of coming with a separate carry bag, the bag is now attached to the seat itself, and, according to the installation videos on their website, needs to be rolled under the seat before installing.

We’ll bring you more details as we get them.


Why New Parents Get it Wrong

Most expectant parents spend countless hours making sure everything for the new baby is just right. They paint the nursery, pick coordinating crib sets, pour over catalogs and roam stores looking for the perfect coming-home outfit, type up their birth plan, and misuse swaddledebate names for weeks.

Yet as soon as these parents put their baby in the car for the first time, almost all of them make at least one critical mistake. Car seat advocates and experts have known this for a long time, but a new study by the American Academy of Pediatrics is highlighting it again: Almost all car seats are installed and/or used incorrectly.

After checking the usage of more than 250 families being discharged from a hospital in Oregon, researchers found that 93% of them made a serious error with their car seats. Nearly 70% left the harness too loose, and 43% didn’t install the seat tight enough. Thirty-six percent had a seat adjusted to an incorrect angle, and 34% positioned the chest clip too low. Other misuse included having the harness straps in the wrong position and using unapproved after-market products.

Why do doting new parents misuse seats like this? That’s a question safety advocates have asked for a long time. Usually it’s not because they don’t care; it’s because they don’t know.

Many parents fail to read the manual that comes with their car seat. I know manuals can be tedious and boring, but when it comes to a piece of safety equipment, it’s necessary. Just do it!

Another reason is that car seats are confusing. If they were easy, we wouldn’t need to have certified technicians to help people with their seats. Again, much of the confusion can be cleared up by reading the manual, but even that can’t solve everything. Car seats often need to be demonstrated, not just talked about on paper.

Finally, a lot of people just don’t understand crash dynamics. Most people have never been in a serious or even moderate crash. They don’t understand how strong crash forces can be, and what kind of effect they can have on a human being—especially a tiny one. It’s certainly not something I had thought about until I became involved in child passenger safety, and even now it’s sometimes hard to wrap my head around. Many parents just don’t understand the lifesaving role a car seat can provide, and how that safety can be compromised by not using them correctly.

How can new parents be better prepared? Here are some tips to help reduce the most common mistakes.

  • Read the manual! Really.pileomanuals
  • For rear-facing seats, the harness should be at or below the child’s shoulders—not above.
  • Tighten the harness so you can’t pinch any webbing between your fingers at the collarbone. On most seats, you’ll want to pull up excess slack from the hip area before tightening.
  • The chest clip should be level with the baby’s armpits. That puts the clip over the strongest part of the baby’s torso—not on the neck, and not on the tummy.
  • Install the seat with the seatbelt OR lower anchors, not both (unless your seat and vehicle both explicitly allow it, which is rare).
  • If you use lower anchors (LATCH) make sure the position in the car allows for it. Most vehicles don’t have dedicated LATCH anchors in the center seating position, and most don’t allow for borrowing outboard anchors for use in the middle (check your manuals).
  • Check to make sure your seat is installed tightly enough. Use your non-dominant hand to give a firm tug where the seatbelt or LATCH strap goes through. As long as the seat moves less than an inch, the installation is tight. It’s important to check for movement ONLY at the belt path. Checking at the top of the seat will make the installation seem looser than it is, and will probably wind up loosening up an otherwise good installation.
  • Check the side of your seat to make sure the angle is correct for a newborn. Some seats have a line that needs to be level to the ground, while others have indicators that include balls, bubbles, or colored disks that show how reclined the seat is. For newborns, the seat should be at or close to the maximum allowed recline.
  • If you’re using a rear-facing-only or infant seat, make sure the handle is in an allowed position in the car. Some seats require the handle to be up, some require it to be down, and some allow any position, so read the manual to find out what’s allowed on your seats.
  • Don’t use aftermarket accessories unless they’re specifically approved by the car seat manufacturer. Also, don’t attach hard or heavy toys to the handle of the seat while it’s in the car.
  • Don’t swaddle your baby or use heavy jackets or snowsuits in the car. Check our tips for winter weather to learn more.
  • Make an appointment with a certified Child Passenger Safety Technician before your child is born. A good technician will teach you to install and use your seat properly. A list of CPSTs can be found here, and car-seat.org also maintains a list of techs among its members.
  • Read the manual!

Aton 2 Declan

If you’re expecting, you’re probably doing everything you can to make sure your baby enters the world as safely as possible. Don’t skimp on safety once he or she is out of the womb.

Britax Combination Seats: Booster Lap Belt Guide Changes

Earlier this year, we reported some improvements to the Britax Pioneer 70 along with some changes for all Britax Frontier 90 and Pinnacle 90 harness-to-booster models.   Britax has made some additional improvements to all these models in response to a “Check Fit” rating from the IIHS that we reported last year.   For many kids, there was no issue at all.  For some, especially smaller kids in certain vehicles, the booster fit was not as good as it could be.  Britax resolved this issue immediately by offering a SecureGuard clip upon request to owners using these products as boosters.  This not only improved lap belt fit in booster mode, but also provided a 4th point of restraint, unique to Britax boosters.

In mid-July, Britax revised the lap belt guides to improve lap belt fit without the need for a SecureGuard clip.  Below you can see some comparison photos between the original and revised products.  In general, the original design is on the left, while the updated design is on the right.  The improvement is modest, but can make a difference depending upon the child and vehicle.

The Frontier 90 and Pinnacle 90 are on our Recommended Car Seats list.

 

BritaxPioneerIIHSFront BritaxPioneerIIHSSide2

BritaxPioneerIIHSoldC BritaxPioneerIIHSnewC

BritaxPioneerIIHSoldB BritaxPioneerIIHSnewB

 

BritaxPioneerIIHSoldA BritaxPioneerIIHSnewA

 

BritaxPioneerIIHSTop