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2017 IIHS Booster Seat Ratings Bonanza: Where Does Your Booster Seat Rank?

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Does your booster rate as a Best Bet?

It’s that time of year again: fall has arrived, the air is crisp, turkey day is around the corner, thoughts are on naughty and nice lists, and the Insurance Institute of Highway Safety (IIHS) released their annual fit ratings of belt-positioning booster seats. Because proper seat belt fit on children is so important to their safety in a crash, having a booster seat that adjusts the seat belt easily for both parent and child is paramount. Fortunately, since the IIHS has released their ratings for years and given access to their testing protocol to manufacturers, we have many more excellent choices than ever before. This year IIHS evaluated 16 booster models and 13 earned their highest ranking of Best Bet. We now have an overall total of 118 Best Bet boosters available in the retail market from which to choose!

Beginning this year, IIHS used a new dummy designed specifically for these tests called Jasper (Juvenile Anthropomorphic Seat-belt Position Evaluation Rig). IIHS worked with Humanetics, the dummy’s manufacturer to design Jasper, which represents a 45 pound 6 yr old.

What makes a “Best Bet” booster seat? The booster should correctly position the seat belt on a typical 4-8 year old child in most vehicles. A correctly positioned seat belt will fit low on the lap, touching the thighs, and cross the shoulders about half-way over the collarbone. The shoulder belt should move freely through the belt guide if you have a highback booster.

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.

“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 bathwater.

What Does Good Belt Fit Look Like?

Most kids need boosters until ages 10-12. Seat belts are designed to fit adult bodies and until children reach adult size, they need a restraint that helps the seat belt fit them or they are at risk of severe injury or death in a crash. The 5-Step Test was designed to help parents determine when their kids fit safely in a seat belt without needing a booster seat.

Sometimes it can be confusing and not at all clear as to whether the seat belt is sitting on the child correctly or not. When evaluating belt fit, it’s always best to dress the child in tight-fitting clothes that don’t bunch; the worst outfit to choose is jeans and a sweatshirt.

Highback boosters with headwings generally have the shoulder belt guides attached and adjust in height. Please check your instruction manual on how to raise the headwings to adjust the shoulder belt position on your child’s shoulder.

New Best Bet Boosters Tested in 2017

This is not an all-inclusive list – many boosters were rated in previous years. You can search all the booster ratings, current and previous years, by manufacturer HERE.

IIHS-BEST-BET-BOOSTER-color
Manufacturer and Model Can Use LATCH CarseatBlog Review CarseatBlog Recommended Seat
Chicco GoFit (backless)
Cosco Finale (highback) Review
Cosco Finale DX (highback) Review
Diono Monterey XT (backless)
Diono Monterey XT (highback) Yes
Evenflo Spectrum (backless) Review
Evenflo Spectrum (highback) Review Yes
Graco Wayz (backless) Review
Graco Wayz (highback) Yes Review
Maxi-Cosi RodiFix (highback) Yes Review Yes
Nuna AACE (backless) Yes
Nuna AACE (highback) Yes
Peg Perego Viaggio Shuttle (backless) Yes

Check Fit Boosters
Manufacturer and Model Can Use LATCH CarseatBlog Review CarseatBlog Recommended Seat
Harmony Folding Travel Booster (highback)
Kiddy USA Cruiser 3 (highback) Yes
Ride Safer Delighter Booster (backless) Review

Not Recommended Boosters

For the first time in years, there are no new boosters on the “Not Recommended” lists; however, that doesn’t mean there aren’t still Not Recommended boosters from past years still being used or for sale as leftover stock. One seat, the Safety 1st Summit 65, is still being manufactured. It is worth looking at the list to make sure a booster you’re using or considering isn’t on this list. These boosters have demonstrated consistently poor belt fit.

For the complete 2017 IIHS Status Report with listing of all previously ranked boosters, visit the IIHS website: http://www.iihs.org/iihs/ratings/child-boosters

Given the number of Best Bet boosters available, chances are high that your booster kid is using one. However, if you’re using a booster that doesn’t garner that coveted Best Bet label, remember to do a fit check yourself in every vehicle you use the booster in since seat belt geometry varies so much. If you have a booster on the Not Recommended list, we do suggest that you find a dedicated belt-positioning booster from the Best Bet list and it need not break the bank.

If you’d like more guidance on which booster to choose, we have our own list of Recommended Carseats with a section on booster seats.

2017 Britax Endeavours Infant Seat Review – the newest member of the Britax carseat family

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Britax Endeavours Rear-Facing Only Carseat Review

Two years ago, Britax introduced the B-Safe 35 Elite to its infant seat lineup, which includes a deeper shell and more modern design. See our B-Safe 35 Elite review here. Now Britax improves upon the B-Safe 35 Elite design with the Britax Endeavours. The Endeavours still has all the Britax basics: SafeCell Impact Protection in the base, two layers of side impact protection on the carrier shell, large canopy, and ergonomic handle. But it also adds a new steel anti-rebound bar, which can reduce rebound rotation by up to 30% in a frontal crash, and the ability to install the carrier using Euro-style belt routing with the shoulder belt routed behind the carrier.

Weight and Height Limits:
  • Rear-facing 4-35 lbs., AND 32” tall or less, AND child’s head is 1” below top of head rest
B-Safe 35 Overview (New features are marked in bold):
  • Complete Side Impact Protection – deep protective shell is designed to absorb crash forces
  • Steel anti-rebound bar on base that reduces rebound rotation by up to 30%
  • SafeCell impact-absorbing steel frame base – these red cells compress in a crash to absorb crash energy
  • Can be installed without base using standard or Euro-style belt path routing
  • Energy absorbing EPP foam
  • 2 crotch strap/buckle positions (before 11 lbs./after 11 lbs.)
  • Ergonomic handle can be in any of the 4 locked positions in the vehicle
  • Deep seat pan
  • Deluxe push-on style lower LATCH connectors
  • Built-in slide lockoffs for installation with seatbelt
  • Dual recline angle indicators
  • Extra-large canopy
  • Smooth bottom base
  • FAA-approved for use on aircraft
  • 6 yr lifespan before seat expires
  • Made in the USA!
2017 Endeavours Fashions

  

Endeavours Base

If you want to purchase additional Endeavours bases to use in other vehicles, they are available separately for $139.99 in the U.S. and $179.99 in Canada. The Endeavours base is also compatible with current B-Safe 35 and B-Safe 35 Elite models if you already own one of those seats. The Endeavours base is NOT FAA-approved for use on airplanes but the carrier is.

Measurements:

No re-thread harness with 6 positions: 5”-11 ½”
External widest point: 18”
Width of base at belt path: 13 3/8”
Width of base at widest point: 13 ½”
Internal shell height: 20 ½”
Crotch strap depth: 4”, 6”
Seat depth: 12”
Carrier weight: 11.2 lbs.

Installation

The anti-rebound bar may or may not make contact with your vehicle seat back and that’s OK

What Is A Tether?

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Updated September 2017

There are so many confusing things about carseats for parents and tethers rank right up there with “do I use LATCH and the seatbelt together?” (the answer to that one is a wishy-washy no). We have a tether use rate of much less than 50% in the U.S., about the same as it was back in the mid-70s. Yes, you read that correctly! It’s gone up and down, but it’s still right around the same—pathetic. Even after teaching a child passenger safety technician class and going over tethers with them—when to use them, how important they are for safety—I still got the deer-in-headlights look from some of the new techs when I quizzed them about tether usage. So if my trained technicians are hesitant about when to use a top tether (how about all the time forward-facing!), I can only imagine the confusion parents are feeling. Without further ado, let’s get to it and learn about tethers.

KIM Conference 2017: Update on Rear-Facing to Age 2

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We’ve recently returned from the Kidz in Motion (KIM) Conference, which is the National Child Passenger Safety Conference, where we had a chance to talk with the very experts who help to shape policy on rear-facing. An open forum was added to the conference schedule at the last minute to address the current status of research on which the American Academy of Pediatrics’ rear-facing to age 2 policy is based. The original study from 2007 claims that rear-facing to age 2 is five times safer; however, Dorel commissioned a review of the study that shows those statistics to be in error. We now have a better idea of what’s going on with the recent Dorel policy statement, where they removed language from their labels and instruction manuals requiring children to remain rear-facing in their convertible seats until age 2.

Dr. Ben Hoffman MD FAAP CPST-I, Chair of the AAP’s Committee on Injury, Violence, and Poison Prevention, led the session and stated that the AAP is not making any changes to their rear-facing policy right now. Jeya Padmanaban, the author of the new research, who found the errors in the original study, has submitted her research to an unknown journal and we are all waiting for it to be peer-reviewed and published. Dr. Hoffman said the AAP is closely monitoring the situation but has no inside information on when, or even if, publication may happen. And he’s the guy who would know.

There was a discussion of research currently being done in the area of child passenger safety and it’s pretty slim. As we all know, money has dried up. Years ago, State Farm had an excellent partnership with the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP) where they pulled data from State Farm’s customers. That program, Partners for Child Passenger Safety, ended a decade ago. CIREN is another network where data from level one trauma centers was analyzed in conjunction with biomechanical engineering teams. The last data set from that program is dated 2015. That’s not to say there aren’t currently any studies being made and progress being made in CPS. It’s just that data to focus on injuries to RF children exclusively isn’t being collected.

The panel did discuss Sweden, since it’s a popular comparison country because of its low crash injury rates for children. All agreed that because of the way their carseats are engineered and installed, we can’t compare the U.S. to Sweden. Their vehicle fleet is newer and different, their roads are different as are the miles driven. They also don’t use forward-facing carseats with a harness so there is no way to compare the effectiveness of RF seats to FF seats in that country. From a pediatrician’s perspective, Dr. Hoffman contributed that their entire healthcare system sets them up for different crash outcomes because they may start out healthier.

The big take-home message of the session was that when used and installed properly, carseats are doing an amazing job of keeping children safe, no matter which direction they face.

What to Do

  • Keep your child rear-facing until age 2
    • Stay the course until/unless it’s proven to change
    • There’s no evidence currently that RF until 2 is harmful
    • Some carseats and some state laws require it
  • Don’t say “It’s 5 times safer to RF to age 2”
    • That’s the statistic that’s being called into question
  • After 24 months, it’s a parental choice when to turn
    • We simply don’t know if it’s safer to RF after age 2. Yes, it seems logical that it should be safer, but there are other variables in the vehicle crash environment.
    • If you choose to RF after age 2, make sure to snug up the harness so you can’t pinch any webbing above the chest clip and put the seat in its most upright angle as the manufacturer allows

At this point in the research, there are more unknowns than knowns and we’re definitely in a holding pattern waiting for that revised journal article to come out. There’s no doubt that Dorel’s statement came at a damaging time when states are passing laws requiring rear-facing to age 2 based on what turned out to be a flawed study. We’re in shock as much as the original authors are, as they didn’t set out to mislead anyone. They are all highly qualified researchers in their fields with professional reputations to uphold.

Just as I say to all my child passenger safety technician candidates in tech class: “Never say never in CPS. It’s an ever-changing field with no absolutes.”