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Safety 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 fitYou 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, It’s Cold Outside! Winter Coat Suggestions for Kids in Carseats

snowconePumpkin Spice lattes, falling leaves, Christmas decorations going up the day after Halloween…it can only mean one thing: It’s getting colder, and your kids are going to need winter clothes.

Michelin-man-style snowsuits might be fine for sledding, but in the car they can be dangerous. Too much bulk means that the harness won’t tighten properly against the child. In a crash, that extra bulk can compress, leaving a too-loose harness, and leaving the child inadequately protected.

So what can you do?

One option is to have your child take her coat off before she gets in the car. Then after she’s buckled, she can slip her arms into the backwards coat.

But what if your kids don’t want to take off their jackets? No problem–just look for something car-seat-friendly.

What constitutes a good coat for the car seat? Anything that doesn’t add extra bulk to the child will do. That might be a sweater, thin fleece, or a squishy down jacket.

To see if your child’s outerwear is ok for the car, put it on your child, put him in his seat, and tighten the harness. Then, WITHOUT LOOSENING THE HARNESS, unbuckle your child and take him out. Take off the jacket, then put him back in the seat and re-buckle. If there’s no extra slack (or just a teeny bit), the jacket is good! If there’s a significant amount of slack, consider another option.

 

Winter Coat Infographic

 

Those two jackets look pretty similar, but you can see how different they really are. In the first photo, my daughter is wearing a Snozu jacket. Without the jacket, the harness had no slack. (In fact, before I took the picture my daughter had been in the seat with no jacket. I didn’t need to loosen the harness at all to buckle her with the jacket on.) The second coat is another story. It’s your typical winter coat, and honestly, it didn’t seem that bulky to me…until I took it off and re-buckled. Wow! There was a lot of slack in that harness!

Here are some good jackets to try:

Last year I got my daughter a Snozu jacket from Costco, pictured above. (There are also some available from Amazon.) They squish down into almost nothing, so they’re perfect for the car. This year’s version has a thin layer of fleece inside, but still works well in the car.

People at car-seat.org also love the Patagonia Puffball.

Many have also said good things about the North Face Moondoggy.

LL Bean and The Gap both have PrimaLoft jackets that look very squishable.

This coat from Lands’ End also looks like it might work.

Besides working well in car seats, these options will also pack well in a backpack or diaper bag when you don’t need them. Safe AND convenient!

What great car seat coats have you found?

Orbit Baby Recalls G2 Carseat Bases Made Between March 20, 2013 and July 20, 2013

Orbit Baby G2 BaseOrbit Baby has issued a voluntary recall of the Orbit Baby Car Seat Base G2. This is a voluntary recall and there have been no reports of injuries. Orbit Baby is taking action out of  an abundance of caution and to ensure the highest standards of safety. This recall affects the G2 carseat base only. It does NOT affect Orbit Baby carseats/carriers, strollers, bassinets or rockers. This issue also does not affect the performance of any Orbit Baby car seats if the Car Seat Base G2 is securely installed in accordance with the instruction manual.

Repair kits will be available soon for all G2 base owners with batches affected by this recall. Customers that have registered a product affected by this recall will automatically receive a notice regarding this issue, as well as any safety updates or product notices in the future. Consumers who have not yet registered their product should contact Orbit Baby Customer Service at 1-877-672-2229 or visit www.orbitbaby.com/support/register to register their product.

In some instances, the StrongArm knob on the Car Seat Base may detach or spin without tightening the base, preventing the installation of the Car Seat Base in accordance with the instruction manual. The StrongArm technology is an installation feature that facilitates the “60-second” installation of the Car Seat Base by tightening the Car Seat Base into the vehicle. The Car Seat Bases that are affected by this recall were manufactured from March 2013 to July 2013 with one of the following Batch Numbers: A0840, A0860 or A0880. No other models are affected by this recall and the actual Car Seat itself can continue to be used without the Car Seat Base in accordance with the instruction manual.

Orbit Baby DOM Label

All Orbit Baby car seats and car seat bases have consistently met and exceeded applicable government safety standards.  This issue does not affect the performance of the Infant Car Seat G2 when used without the Car Seat Base G2. This issue also does not affect the performance of the Car Seat Base G2 if it is securely installed in accordance with the instruction manual.

 

Orbit Baby Strong Arm Knob

You can find the most up-to-date information on the Orbit Baby website here: www.orbitbaby.com/safety-update

 

Why 3-Year-Olds Have No Business Riding In Booster Seats

3 year old in booster seatI see this less frequently than in years past, but it’s still happening all across America. Parents are graduating preschool age children into booster seats too quickly. The problem is, it’s not a “graduation”. It’s a demotion in safety. And it’s putting young children at risk for serious and possibly fatal injuries in a crash.

Here are some of the main reasons why 3-year-olds (and even many 4-year-olds) have no business riding in a booster seat in the car:

  1. 3-year-olds (and young kids, in general) lack the maturity to stay properly seated for every ride in a booster seat
  2. Even though some booster seats are rated down to 30 lbs., it is generally accepted that children under 40 lbs. are best protected in a seat with a 5-pt harness
  3. Many booster seats do not position the seatbelt optimally on the body of an average 3-or-4-year-old which could lead to internal injuries in a crash
  4. Many boosters seats have a seating depth (front-to-back) that is too deep for the shorter legs of a younger child. If the child has to slouch or scoot forward to bend his/her knees over the edge of the booster, that will promote poor seatbelt fit which increases injury risk.
  5. Having a 3-year-old in a booster is illegal in some states (like New York), although there may be exemptions

 

Think of it this way – when your child rides in a carseat with a 5-point harness, the responsibility for the child’s safety rests on you, the parent or caregiver, to make sure that the child is safe in the vehicle. It’s the parent/caregiver’s responsibility to make sure the seat is installed tightly and the harness straps are snug around the child. The child is responsible for nothing. God forbid, in case of a crash, the child should be in the proper position to allow the carseat to do its job.

Now, once your child transitions to a belt-positioning booster seat using the vehicle seatbelt – that responsibility for the child’s safety switches to the child. The booster seat can’t do its job if, at the moment of impact, the child has leaned over to pick up something off of the floor of the car. Or leaned over to mess with their little brother or sister. Or fallen asleep out of position. Or put the shoulder belt under their arm. Etc, etc. Booster seats are for children who are mature enough to sit still and stay in the proper position. And they have to be able to stay in that proper position for the entire ride, every ride. Awake or asleep.

I know there are some 3-year-olds who can do that but the vast majority cannot. 3-year-olds (and many 4-year-olds) are just too wiggly! Most are not ready yet for the extra freedom that a booster provides. Usually, by kindergarten age, most kids are ready to start “booster training”. But if your kid is still a wiggle worm with no impulse control – then you should continue to use a seat with a 5-point harness. Just make sure it’s a seat that your kid still fits in.

There are some carseats with a 5-pt harness that have low top harness slots and a 40 lbs weight limits on the harness. Those seats will be outgrown much more quickly by weight or by height. But there are many more seats on the market today with a 5-point harness rated up to 50, 65 or even 90 lbs. that also have tall top harness slots to keep those preschool age kids safely in a 5-pt harness for a few more years. And many of them can also be used in booster mode (without the harness) once the harness is outgrown. We call those “Combination Seats” because they combine a forward-facing 5-point harness seat with a booster seat.

For more information, please see our list of Recommended Seats or visit our forum at www.Car-Seat.Org.