News Archive

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

Facebooktwittergoogle_plusmailFacebooktwittergoogle_plusmail
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.

HOT CARS Act Passes U.S. House

Facebooktwittergoogle_plusmailFacebooktwittergoogle_plusmail

Language from a bill known as the Helping Overcome Trauma for Children Alone in Rear Seats Act (or HOT CARS Act) has been approved by the United States House of Representatives. The HOT CARS Act requires auto manufacturers to include an alarm reminding drivers to check the back seat of their vehicles, ideally leading to a decrease in the number of deaths caused by inadvertently leaving children in the back seat.

The HOT CARS Act was initially introduced in the Energy and Commerce Committee in June, but language from the bill was passed on September 6 as an amendment to the DECAL Act, which seeks to inform consumers about the capabilities and limitations of self-driving cars.

The amendment concerning children left in hot cars says that within two years of the bill becoming law, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration must issue a rule requiring automakers to include an alarm that will alert drivers to check the rear seat when they turn off the engine. Auto manufacturers would then have two years to comply with the rule.

Children dying in hot cars is a serious issue, and one that has been getting more attention lately. Some vehicle manufacturers, like General Motors, are already putting safeguards in place (as are some car seat companies, like Evenflo). This regulation would force other auto manufacturers to follow suit.

While this bill is a step in the right direction for protecting children from accidental deaths, there’s still a long way to go. First, the bill will need to pass the U.S. Senate. If it does, it will then need to be signed into law by a president who has signaled a resistance to new regulations.

If the bill does become law, the regulation will need to actually be enacted–a process that is often met with challenges, changes, and delays.

We have questions about how these proposed alarms will work. If an alarm chimes each time the car is turned off (as is suggested in the language of the bill), people are more likely to ignore it or otherwise tune it out, especially once they get used to hearing it. Falling into a routine is exactly the problem these alarms should be trying to solve; they shouldn’t be contributing to it. A system like GM’s, where the alarm sounds only if the back door had been opened and shut prior to the car moving, seems more likely to be effective since it has a better chance of catching people specifically when they have a child onboard.

Even under the best scenarios, this regulation is still years away from becoming reality. 

There are benefits and downfalls to relying on technology or gadgets to help keep caregivers from forgetting children in the car. People can always take precautions on their own, though. We recommend that people put an item they’ll need at their destination (like a phone, a purse, or a shoe) in the back seat so they’ll need to open that back door and see the child inside.

Legislation might eventually help, but it’s a long road.

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

Facebooktwittergoogle_plusmailFacebooktwittergoogle_plusmail

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.”

 

 

Nuna PIPA lite Preview: PIPA Goes on a Diet

Facebooktwittergoogle_plusmailFacebooktwittergoogle_plusmail
Updated: 2017 and 2018 Nuna PIPA lite and PIPA lite lx Preview

Ever wondered why after decades of popularity, infant carriers still seem heavy?  With all the inserts and a canopy it’s like somehow the upscale models all feel close to 10 pounds. We’ve heard promises of ultra-light, carbon fiber designs for years, but they’ve never appeared.  So what is the absolute lightest weight rear-facing only infant carseat carrier on the market in the USA for 2017?  In September, it will be the nuna PIPA™ lite at only 6 pounds with canopy!  It’s a hair over 5 pounds without canopy, and just under 7 pounds with both the full newborn insert and canopy.

 

The PIPA lite will be sold at independent Brixy affiliated retailers in the USA for $349.   Nordstrom is now taking pre-orders for the deluxe PIPA lite lx at $399.  It should ship by early December.  Adding only half a pound, nuna gives the lx the awesome Dream Drape™ canopy plus upgraded Merino wool TENCEL™ blend knit fabrics with no flame retardants added!  We’ve felt these new wool fabrics and they have a very premium, soft feel.

Here are the basics.  The PIPA lite shaves just over 2.5 pounds off the fabulous PIPA.  The lite lx is more than 2 pounds lighter than the original PIPA.  Lightweight, high performance materials in the shell and foam liners allowed nuna to cut the weight considerably while claiming to have no reduction in crash testing performance!  Notably, they use high strength aluminum and proprietary aeroflex™ EPP energy absorbing foam fused directly to a re-invented semi-flexible thin wall shell.  That means no more breaking of the stiff, white energy absorbing foam layer found in most carseats.  Both PIPA lite and lite lx are completely flame retardant free.   Both lite models come with an all-new matching head and body newborn insert.  The patented design with memory foam insert helps it to meet the enhanced European 129 safety standard.  They also include an extra set of dye-free GOTS™ certified organic cotton newborn inserts and harness/crotch strap covers inside the box!

PIPA lite carrier specs:

  • Weight limit: 4-32 lbs
  • Height limit: up to 32″
  • Inside depth: ~14″
  • Inside hip width: ~9″
  • Inside  height: ~18″
  • Buckle slot depth: 7″
  • Harness slot heights: 6″, 7.5″, 9.5″
  • Outside dimensions: 27.25″ x 17.5″w x 22.5″h
  • Carrier weight: 5.3 lbs, 6.1 lbs with canopy
  • Carrier + insert weight: 6.7 lbs with canopy
  • Handle positions: 3
  • Harness height positions: 3 (2 using insert)
  • Expiration: 7 years

The lite models use the same steel-reinforced PIPA base as the original model.   That includes the dual bubble recline indicators, load stability leg and belt lock-off system, plus the wonderful rigid LATCH attachments.  LATCH guides are included in the box to help with installation.

 

This is a pretty amazing feat of engineering, to be honest.  As with every single carseat design on the market, there are always tradeoffs and compromises.