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The Safest Booster Seat for Your Child: Can IIHS Ratings Tell You Which is the Best for You?

The IIHS released its 2014 Belt Positioning Booster Seat Ratings recently. The Institute released its first results in 2008. Thirteen models were Not Recommended that year. In contrast, this year only 3 models were added for a total of just 5 boosters on the Not Recommended list. In 2008, only 10 models rated a “Best Bet”. This year, 27 new models rated a “Best Bet” making a total of 62 top performing boosters. That is great progress in a very important evaluation of safety!

It’s still important for parents to understand that the IIHS booster ratings are NOT based on crash testing results. They are also not based on a wide sampling of real-world fit evaluations with actual children who move around on their own. The ratings are standardized assessments of how well each booster fits a specific crash test dummy (6-year-old Hybrid III) in four test configurations that simulate a range of popular vehicle designs. Of course, kids and vehicles may vary significantly. So, this rating system doesn’t guarantee that a ”Best Bet” product will fit your child better than a model that is listed as “Check Fit,” especially if your child is significantly larger or smaller than the 6-year-old Hybrid III dummy (which weighs 51.6 lbs, has an overall height of almost 45″ tall, and a seated height of 25″). The same goes if your car has unusual seating or seatbelt design.

IIHS Good Belt Fit

The bottom line is that if you know how to make sure a booster fits properly on your child, in your vehicle, only you can determine the best booster for your situation, even without ratings! This is done with a simple 5-step test you can do easily in a couple minutes on your own. We do think the IIHS ratings are a great place to start when looking for a booster, but they don’t tell you anything else about the booster in regard to features or value. For that, we always suggest that parents browse CarseatBlog’s detailed reviews! For example, some boosters have poor shoulder belt guides that can catch the seatbelt and prevent it from retracting, a potentially dangerous situation. This type of problem is not identified in the IIHS testing, but we mention it in our reviews if we observe it in our testing.

All that said, the IIHS booster ratings have become a powerful shopping tool in the last 6 years. Witness the introduction of the Britax Frontier 90 and Pinnacle 90 a year ago. We evaluated them among the top combination booster models on the market, and they fit a wide range of children very well in both harness and booster mode. Unfortunately, the IIHS initially rated them a “Check Fit”. Many shoppers may not realize that this rating means that many kids may still fit very well in this booster in some vehicles, as we discussed in our coverage of the 2013 IIHS ratings. Britax even offered owners of the original Frontier 90 and Pinnacle 90 models a free SecureGuard clip that not only improves booster fit, but also provides a unique 4th point or restraint for the child.

BritaxPioneerIIHSSide2Even so, consumers have driven manufacturers to achieve the “Best Bet” rating. A few months ago, Britax released updates to these models along with the Pioneer 70, in order to obtain the top rating. You can see the design change in the photo (right). In our real world evaluation of fit, we found that the improvements from “Check Fit” to “Best Bet” can be very modest, especially on larger children who would be most likely to use booster mode in these products (photos, below).

BritaxPioneerIIHSoldA BritaxPioneerIIHSnewA


Like the IIHS vehicle crash testing program, the booster program has become an industry standard and has driven design. Some manufacturers now work with the IIHS to make sure their products will achieve Good Bet or Best Bet ratings. While the IIHS can’t predict if any specific booster will be the safest for your child, in your own vehicle, it does give you a good idea which models have the best chance to fit well! Savvy parents will also check out CarseatBlog’s detailed reviews and Recommended Carseats list for many details that the IIHS does not provide. But there’s always the question that concerns every parent:

 Should I buy a different booster because the one I have didn’t get a “Best Bet” or “Good Bet” rating?

If your kid is riding around in a booster that has a “Not Recommended” rating then you probably do need to get a different booster seat. You should still assess the situation first because there is a slim chance that maybe it’s positioning the seatbelt correctly on your child in your vehicle. But there is a good chance that it isn’t. Some seats that have been included in the “Not Recommended” list are notorious for doing a lousy job in booster mode. There is nothing wrong with them if they are combination seats being used with the 5-point harness, but in booster mode these models just don’t do a good job of positioning the seatbelt properly on many kids.

If your booster didn’t receive a “Best Bet” or even a “Good Bet” rating, it may still provide good protection for your child, but regardless, you need to check the belt fit.  If it doesn’t fit optimally, try a different seating position in your vehicle to see if it works better in a different spot. And make sure you read the instruction manual that came with your booster! You would be shocked at the number of mistakes many parents make when using booster seats. The IIHS goes strictly by the manual when it evaluates boosters and so should you, if you want your booster to perform as well as it did in their testing!

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Consumer Reports on Potential Britax ClickTight Boulevard & Marathon Convertible Carseat Safety Issues

Britax ClickTight convertiblesSome New Britax ClickTight Convertible Carseats May Have Loose or Detached Harness Straps

Today Consumer Reports published an article detailing safety concerns over the new Britax Boulevard ClickTight and Marathon ClickTight convertible seats. Although not mentioned in the article, it is possible that the Advocate ClickTight models may have the same issues. We want to emphasize that this only applies to the brand new “ClickTight” convertible models. All other Britax convertibles, such as the “G4″ models, are NOT affected. Frontier 90 and Pinnacle 90 Combination seats with ClickTight are also NOT affected. 

Link to full CR article:

Two Britax car seats could pose safety risk
Consumer Reports finds potential problem with the Britax Boulevard ClicktTight and the Britax Marathon ClickTight

Fortunately, this should be easy for customers to remedy. In fact, the five-point harness design allows for repositioning the straps on their anchors to adjust for different-sized children. Our car seat installation experts found that if they followed Britax’s online instructions for adjusting the harness length, they were able to properly re-secure the harness strap themselves, paying particular attention to engage the straps inside the hook.

Here at CarseatBlog, we agree completely with the advice to check your Britax CT Convertible models and make a correction if necessary. Once the straps are properly secured to the anchors they should NOT be able to free themselves from the anchor. The thickness of the harness strap webbing combined with the shape/design of the anchor makes it highly unlikely that the strap could free itself from the anchor if it was attached properly in the first place. We’re not in the business of speculation but it seems highly probable that the issue with these seats is an error somewhere in the factory assembly process. 

Britax CT Infographic

 

We’ll keep you posted on this issue as more information becomes available from Britax in the near future. Parents can find basic instructions and video on how to locate and adjust the harness straps at the Britax USA Website. These videos show the basic procedure to attach the harness straps in the shorter or longer length as needed. They also demonstrate how to reattach a loose harness strap if yours is not secured properly:

In the mean time please share this info with your friends and family so we get the word out to as many Britax CT convertible owners as possible. There does not appear to be an immediate need to stop using the carseat, as it only takes a minute or two to re-attach the harness strap if it is found to be loose. In this case the only thing we need to keep children safe is information on what to look for and how to fix it!

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!

ABC Expo 2014: What’s New from Baby Trend, Chicco, Evenflo, Recaro & UPPABaby

Here’s a quick run down from ABC of some of the new and updated products that are coming soon (or already available, in some cases) from Baby Trend, Chicco, Evenflo, Recaro & UPPAbaby.

babytrend

New EZ Flex 32 Infant Seat

  • 5-32 lbs.; up to 32″ tall
  • No rethread harness
  • 4 piece insert
  • New 4 position base
  • Sleeker handle
  • BRU Exclusive
  • Going to Canada with anti-rebound bar

Baby Trend Flex 32

Baby Trend Flex 32 Base Baby Trend Flex 32 Base - LATCH Storage

Inertia Infant Seat has renamed “Kussen” and will be sold under new MÜV Brand.

muv logo

MUV Kussen - Inertia

 

 

chicco

New labels and fashions for KeyFit 30; New Chicco Bravo Stroller

Chicco - New KeyFit Marketing Chicco KeyFit 30 Chicco Bravo Stroller & KeyFit - Empire fashion   Chicco Bravo stroller - Ombra fashion closeup Chicco Bravo - Rain Chicco KeyFit 30 - Rain

NextFit Convertible with “ComfortFlex Harness Management” pads – harness strap covers for the lower portion of the 5-point harness. They keep the buckle tongues from sliding down during loading. In hot weather you can also tuck the metal buckle tongues into the top of the pad to keep them from heating up too much.

Chicco NextFit - ComfortFlex pads Chicco NextFit with ComfortFlex pads

KidFit Booster wasn’t available for viewing because it will likely be a Target Exclusive. No price point yet.

No update on NextFit going to Canada so that’s not likely to happen anytime soon.

 

evenflo

New fashions and buckle pockets being added to more models.

Evenflo Symphony - Blue Evenflo Maestro with Buckle Pockets Evenflo Maestro Buckle Pockets Evenflo Tribute New Purple Fashion for SecureKid LX Evenflo Embrace 35Evenflo Collection

New Stroller Frame coming soon

New Evenflo Stroller Frame

 

recaro

New Performance Coupe Infant Seat

Recaro Performance Coupe

  • 4-35 lbs.; up to 32″ tall
  • No rethread harness with 5 height positions
  • HERO harness technology
  • Temperature balancing fabrics and memory foam
  • Easy to remove cover

Prototype of new Easylife umbrella stroller – comes with adaptor for the Coupe infant seat, weighs just 12 lbs, and folds up tiny!

Recaro - easylife umbrella stroller

New “Plum” fashion for Performance Sport

Recaro Performance Sport - Plum

 

uppababy - logo

New fashions for MESA Infant Seat. ETA late Spring 2015.

Denny (red), Pascal (light grey) & Georgie (royal blue).

UPPAbaby MESA - Denny UPPAbaby MESA - 2015 fashions