Safety Archive

2015 IIHS Booster Ratings: Ranking the Safest Boosters

IIHS Awards “Best Bet” to 20 Models of Child Booster SeatsJenny

Every year, the list of great boosters for kids gets bigger and bigger, according to the Insurance Institute of Highway Safety. Parents and caregivers have an easier task of finding a belt-positioning booster seat that will provide their child with a safe seat belt fit. The IIHS evaluated 23 highback and backless models for optimum seat belt fit on a 6 year old dummy; fit is determined by how well the seat belt lies across the shoulder and thighs. The booster is given a rating of “Best Bet,” “Good Bet,” “Check Fit,” or “Not Recommended.”

Booster seats are for an age group of kids (about 5-11) that are commonly known as the “forgotten kids” of child passenger safety. Well, *we* haven’t forgotten them, but they slide through the cracks of safety because they’re too big for convertible carseats and too small for the vehicle seat belt to fit safely. A recent Safe Kids survey found that 86% of parents switched their kids to just the vehicle seat belt before it fit properly. While you may frequently hear that it’s OK to move your child to a vehicle seat belt when he’s 4’9″ tall, as parents, we at CarseatBlog know our children didn’t fit in our vehicles using just the seat belt at that minimum height suggestion. Remember, these are adult seat belts so your kids must be adult-sized to use them. Until then, booster seats are the way to go.

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.

Government Calls for Lap/Shoulder Seat Belts on School Buses


NHTSA Pushes Lawmakers and School Districts to Enhance Safety for Children on School Buses

School BusAccording to recent remarks made by NHTSA Administrator Dr. Mark Rosekind for the National Association for Pupil Transportation, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration will shift its position to endorse 3-point lap/shoulder seatbelts on school buses.

As NHTSA’s administrator, my primary role is as the leader of our agency. NHTSA has not always spoken with a clear voice on the issue of seat belts on school buses. So let me clear up any ambiguity now: The position of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration is that seat belts save lives. That is true whether in a passenger car or in a big yellow bus. And saving lives is what we are about. So NHTSA’s policy is that every child on every school bus should have a three-point seat belt. NHTSA will seek to use all the tools at our disposal to help achieve that goal, and today I want to launch a nationwide effort to get us there.

Is this a change in position? Yes. But it is consistent with NHTSA’s role as the guardian of safety on America’s roads. It is consistent with decades of progress in raising seat belts in the minds of the public from novelty to nuisance to “the car doesn’t move until I hear that click.” Seat belts are icons of safety. And that makes them the single most effective thing we can provide to improve the confidence of parents, policymakers and children. Without seat belts on buses, there is a gaping, obvious hole in our safety measures that sparks questions all of us have to answer. With seat belts, we can build momentum for student pedestrian safety, enhanced enforcement, and more.

Photo Credit: Safeguard4kids

Photo Credit: Safeguard4kids

While school buses are among the safest methods of transportation due to size, mass, visibility, driver experience and other factors, seatbelts would make them even safer. Seatbelts would also make large buses compatible with child safety seats for younger kids. Smaller school buses are already being transitioned to lap and shoulder belt systems. Concerns include cost and passenger capacity, which could reduce the number of children served by buses, possibly forcing some to other means of transportation. Currently, states determine if large school buses require seatbelts. Six states currently require either lap or lap/shoulder belts, but some of these mandates remain unfunded.

According to NHTSA, approximately 4 school age children (5-18 years old) who are occupants of large school buses are killed annually. Assuming 100% seat belt use, a Federal mandate for lap/shoulder belts could save 2 lives annually. Passenger car fatality rates are over 7 times higher overall.

It is still worth noting that most published comparisons between cars and buses use overall car fatality rates where fatal injuries are dominated by unrestrained occupants and crashes where the car driver is a teen or is under the influence of alcohol or other drugs. Overall rates also don’t take into account that many car fatalities happen with greater frequency during overnight hours, evening rush hours and during summer months when school buses may not be operating. So, the rates for a grade school child transported by a parent or adult caregiver in an appropriate restraint system in the back seat of a family vehicle would presumably be closer to the rates observed in school buses.

Even so, CarseatBlog applauds NHTSA’s new goal that could cut school bus fatalities nearly in half, and significantly reduce many more preventable injuries, making large school buses safer than any alternative. The consistency of message for a child to buckle-up anytime they are in a vehicle is also extremely important. The American Academy of Pediatrics also endorses such a policy.

The AAP recommends that all children travel in age-appropriate, properly secured child-restraint systems when transported in all motor vehicles, including school buses, to ensure the safest ride possible. The AAP further recommends that all newly manufactured school buses be equipped with lap/shoulder restraint systems that can also accommodate car safety seats, booster seats, and harness systems. The AAP recognizes the added benefit of improved student behavior and consistent habits of restraint use when traveling in motor vehicles. Policies on seat belt use have been found to improve student behavior and reduce driver distraction.

News: Acura Earns Highest Safety Ratings on ALL 2015 models. Two Dorel Boosters Re-Evaluated by IIHS.


Acura Safety v3.0We commend Acura for achieving top overall ratings from the IIHS and NHTSA on every current model!  We awarded the Acura MDX honors as the safest 2015 SUV in a recent article, and would like to acknowledge vehicle manufacturers that place an emphasis on safety.  Acura claims to be the first and only auto manufacturer to earn a 5-star Overall vehicle score from the NHTSA NCAP program, AND a Top Safety Pick+ rating from the IIHS across its entire 2015 model line (IIHS TSP+ rating when equipped with collision mitigation braking systems).  Congrats!

CarseatBlog emphasizes crash test ratings and advanced safety features in all our auto reviews.  We strongly encourage other manufacturers to put safety first and to make crash test ratings a top priority for ALL vehicles, as Acura has done.  To put it simply, an NHTSA “5-star” overall rating and IIHS “Top Safety Pick” rating is something every buyer should require in a vehicle.  No new vehicles today should earn anything less than a “4-star” rating from the NHTSA or less than an “Acceptable” rating from the IIHS in any individual crash test result.  Period.

We also encourage all auto makers to equip advanced crash avoidance technologies as standard whenever possible, especially on top trim levels and luxury vehicles.  On economy models and lower trim levels, these features should be readily available in a relatively low cost options package.  All too often, collision mitigation braking systems necessary to qualify for the IIHS Top Safety Pick “+” aware are a hard-to-find option and only on the most expensive trim level.  Then you must tack on thousands of dollars more for a safety technology package, if you can even find one at all on dealer’s lots!  That type of obsolete marketing is NOT putting customers and safety first.


booster_safety-1st_summit-65In other news, the IIHS is correcting two “BEST BET” booster recommendations from 2014.  The Eddie Bauer Deluxe Highback 65 and Safety 1st Summit 65 were given the top rating in error.  The revised rating is “Not Recommended”.  According to the IIHS:

The concern about the Eddie Bauer Deluxe Highback 65 and Safety 1st Summit 65, both manufactured by Dorel Juvenile, is that while the shoulder belt crosses the child’s body at the middle of the shoulder, it is positioned too far forward. In that position, the shoulder belt would be less effective in a crash.

The IIHS states that these models were inadvertently evaluated to the protocol used prior to 2014.  They also note that these ratings only apply to these models in booster mode, and DO NOT apply when used with the 5-point harness system.  Below, you can see the difference between a Good (left) and Poor (right) shoulder belt fit in regard to contact at the shoulder (courtesy of IIHS):

Booster-GOOD-FIT-IIHS (00000002) Booster-POOR-FIT-IIHS

Consumer Reports Identifies Potential Safety Issue with Recaro Performance RIDE Convertible Seats


Recaro Performance Ride convertibleToday Consumer Reports released information on a safety issue they identified during testing of the Recaro Performance RIDE convertible. In crash tests using their new test protocol, the harness support hardware in the back of the Performance RIDE shell broke. This allowed the harness to pull through the seatback and loosen as the dummy moved forward. This structural failure occurred in three of four Performance RIDE tests using the 35 lb 3-year-old dummy. In all three cases, the seat was installed forward-facing on the test sled using LATCH (lower anchors and tether).

According to Consumer Reports:

The potential risk of a harness that loosens in an actual vehicle crash would be the increased forward movement of the head and added potential for a child’s head to contact some surface in the vehicle interior. There also is increased risk for the child to be ejected from the seat, and for the harness to no longer secure the child for any secondary or subsequent impacts or events.

Read the full article here: Structural Weakness Found in Recaro Performance RIDE Child Seat

I think it goes without saying that we take carseat safety very seriously around here and while these findings are concerning (especially when you consider that these same seats were recently recalled for unrelated performance issues) we want to make sure that Performance RIDE owners have a full understanding of what is going on so they can decide for themselves what action, if any, they should take.

First and foremost, it’s important to know that the new Consumer Reports carseat crash test was developed to be more rigorous than federal standards. CR realizes that not all carseats are created equal even though they should all meet the basic safety standards of FMVSS 213. Therefore, CR set out to develop a test to try to determine which carseats provide extra levels of protection beyond the standards already established by NHTSA. The CR test is very different from the FMVSS 213 tests that all child restraints are expected to pass in this country.

With that said…

Since this is a new and more stringent test, we don’t automatically think that all seats that earn a “BASIC” rating from CR are unsafe in some way. On the other hand, no other convertible seats tested by CR using the new crash test protocol had these specific issues with the 3-year old dummy that weighs 35 pounds. Now, we are fully aware of the differences between running a test at 27-30 mph (FMVSS 213 speed) and running it at 35 mph (NCAP/CR TEST speed) but the fact that these convertible seats are rated up to 65 pounds forward-facing and yet may possibly experience issues with the 3-year-old dummy doesn’t exactly inspire confidence.

CR reports that the Performance RIDE had similar failures with the 6-year-old, 52 pound dummy in their test, installed using the lap/shoulder seatbelt and tether.  Four other convertibles of the 25 tested also failed with the larger dummy, though this is a much more extreme test in their new, higher speed protocol.  Also, most Recaro Performance RIDE and ProRIDE convertibles were recently recalled for failing to meet certain FMVSS 213 performance standards. It was a failure unrelated to the issue CR encountered and Recaro is sending a recall remedy to all owners of recalled seats but it was a performance failure nonetheless and it affected most of the convertible seats Recaro had made in the last 5 years.

Our advice:

If you are currently using a Recaro Performance RIDE carseat in the rear-facing position you don’t have any cause for concern at the moment since both the recent recall and the concerns raised by CR are related to issues that may potentially occur when the seat is used forward-facing.

If you are currently using a Recaro Performance RIDE carseat in the forward-facing position, fix your tether strap with the recall kit if your seat has been recalled and continue to monitor the blog for further updates, if any, regarding your carseat.  This issue reported by CR is not a second, new recall for your seat and there have been no public complaints made to NHTSA regarding this issue. As always, if your child is under 40 pounds and still fits in the rear-facing position, turn the seat rear-facing for optimum protection. Forward-facing, make sure the installation is tight and the harness is snug and continue to use it with caution until we learn more.  If your child no longer fits within the rear-facing limits, please consider another convertible or forward-facing carseat from our Recommended Carseats list.


Recaro’s Response to Consumer Reports:

“The Recaro Performance RIDE convertible car seat has saved the lives of many children involved in a car crash and has never experienced a field failure after being in the marketplace for over five years. Recaro tests to meet and exceed all National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) crash test requirements. The research by Consumer Reports was conducted with a crash test at 40 percent more energy at its peak than current NHTSA standards. We want to reassure our consumers that we take all aspects of a child’s safety seriously and will examine these findings closely. Recaro appreciates Consumer Reports’ interest in child passenger safety.”

For more info see: New Crash Protection Ratings and Methods from Consumer Reports