Will Skinny be back in 2015? A Plea to Manufacturers.

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Britax-StarRiserComfySkinny is back in demand – that is, if you’re a carseat or booster. Unfortunately, skinny is also hard to come by these days and that’s a real problem. In a time when Americans are downsizing their vehicles in droves –  increased laws and awareness are keeping more and more kids in carseats and boosters longer. The combination of these two factors is creating a real space problem.

We need more seats that can fit in narrow seating positions and in those tricky 3-across situations. Manufacturers really need to work to address this issue because if I see one more parent without armrests on their Turbo booster because they’re trying to make it fit next to another carseat – I’m going to lose my mind!

Here are some suggestions for all CR manufacturers. Work on designing new, narrow seats, or even booster seats that are width-adjustable like some of the old Britax boosters and pay particular attention to how your various models fit/puzzle/mesh next to each other.  

For those parents and caregivers who can’t wait for future seats – the brand new Cosco Scenera NEXT is a neat little convertible that is going to work in a lot of tight situations. But it’s small and really meant for infants and toddlers. The Evenflo Tribute convertible can be a saving grace in many 3-across scenarios too but again, it’s not that big and many kids will outgrow it by height before hitting 40 lbs. The Radian models have built a reputation on being narrow and working well in a lot of 3-across scenarios but they have their quirks and incompatibility issues in some cases. I’ve seen the Harmony Defender forward-facing combination seat recommended for people looking for a slim seat but not everyone wants a carseat that has to be assembled like IKEA furniture. The Clek Foonf and Clek Fllo are narrow convertibles too but they’re pricey and out of reach for many families on a budget.

In the last decade the industry has been very focused on bigger and wider. No doubt this is due to the fact that American kids are getting bigger and wider, not to mention they’re staying in carseats and boosters for much longer than in the past. Plus, there has been a strong, steady demand for higher-weight carseats and boosters that can accommodate bigger/older children. This is all well and good – but you can’t focus exclusively on bigger and wider because if the bigger seats don’t fit in smaller vehicles – then what?

What do you think happens when a family of 5 trades in their Tahoe for an Accord? And what happens at a check event when a car pulls in with 3 kids in the back of an old Corolla and all 3 need to be in seats? My CPS program stocks Evenflo Tributes, institutional models of the Maestro and Harmony Youth Boosters but sometimes it’s not enough and parents are forced to make those “tough choices”.  Do you put a kid up front? Let the oldest ride without a booster in back even though he clearly still needs one? This is reality. This is what we have to deal with at check events just because we no longer have those really narrow affordable options like Cosco Tourivas and Graco Cargos and Evenflo RightFit backless boosters.

Manufacturers, you can help those of us in the trenches (and those who are personally in these predicaments) by meeting these challenges and making more 3-across-and-small-vehicle-friendly seats. We also desperately need more affordable options for our CPS programs that work in these tight situations and are made in USA so we can actually buy them with our grant funding! I know we can’t fix or solve every incompatibility that we encounter but this particular problem seems to have some possible solutions that are realistic and within reach. I hope you’ll agree.

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2014 IIHS Booster Ratings: Where Does Your Booster Rank?

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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!

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

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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.