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IIHS Tests 60 Child Booster Seats, Judges 11 Not Recommended

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Child in booster seat -- from IIHS instructional video

Child in booster seat -- from IIHS instructional video

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Frustrated with the lack of information on booster seats, and the lack of federal requirements for them?

The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) has taken up the fight, and tested 60 popular boosters, gauging them depending on how well they fit children and on how well the booster seats themselves fit vehicle seatbelts.

In the Institute’s latest tests—which have been refined since its first booster tests last year—eleven of the booster models fitted seatbelts so poorly that it judged them Not Recommended. Nine of the models were judged Best Bets, while six were included as Good Bets.

"Parents can't tell a good booster from a bad one just by comparing design features and price," said Anne McCartt, the IIHS senior vice president for research, in a release with the results. "What really matters is if the booster you're considering correctly positions the safety belt on your 4-8 year-old in your vehicle. Our ratings make it easier to pick a safer booster for kids who have outgrown child restraints."

According to the IIHS, an effective booster seat should route the vehicle lap belt across the child’s upper thighs and allow the shoulder belt to be positioned mid-shoulder. Belt fit is especially important, as after all the purpose of a booster seat is to elevate the child to that the belt will fit and properly protect him or her in a crash.

Price is not consistent with how well a booster seat fits, the IIHS found, noting that its recommended choices started at about $20 but some cost more than $250.

So-called three-in-one models make up about half of the models that aren’t recommended, because they position the lap belt too high and the shoulder belt too far out—and for the rest of the poor-scoring models poor shoulder belt fit was the most common issue.

Seven of the models on the Not Recommended list are made by Dorel Juvenile Group, which is the largest children’s gear distributor in the U.S., the IIHS notes.

The IIHS first tested booster seats last year, and many of the models not recommended then have already been discontinued. The organization will continue to look at new booster-seat models throughout the year, as it looks at new vehicle models for its Top Safety Pick award.

We’ve included the list of models that are Best Bets, Good Bets, and Not Recommended below, but for more information you should consult the full ratings list, including model numbers and photos of the seats for verification, and view this video on proper booster fit. Also, visit this page for more information on choosing the right safety restraint for your child.

Combi Dakota backless/clip
Recaro Young Sport
Recaro Vivo
Maxi-Cosi Rodi XR
Evenflo Big Kid Amp backless/clip
Eddie Bauer Auto Booster
Cosco Juvenile Pronto
Britax Frontier
Clek Oobr

Combi Kobuk backless/clip
Maxi-Cosi Rodi
Evenflo Symphony 65
Britax Parkway SG
Graco TurboBooster SafeSeat Wander
Graco TurboBooster SafeSeat Sachi

Harmony Secure Comfort Deluxe backless/clip
Combi Kobuk
Evenflo Express
Eddie Bauer Deluxe
Safety 1st Alpha Omega Elite
Evenflo Sightseer
Alpha Omega Elite
Eddie Bauer Deluxe 3-in-1
Safety 1st All-in-One
Alpha Omega Luxe Echelon
Alpha Omega


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Comments (7)
  1. Great list - thanks fo rthis find. Looks like it is tiem fo rme to get rid of teh Eddie Bauer Deluxe!
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  2. This was on the news this morning
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  3. Everyone should calm down and not get rid of their booster seats. There are a lot of flaws to the IIHS report. Where do I start?
    1. The IIHS does not take into consideration dynamic front, rear and side-impact standards testing. A “Not Recommended” rating does not mean that the product is unsafe. Instead it
    indicates that the seat belt is not optimally positioned per the evaluation criteria
    established by IIHS. Basing the “Not Recommended” rating only on optimum belt
    fit and ignoring the positive crash protection afforded by boosters is very short
    2. The report does not reference the validity of U.S. FMVSS 213 safety standards as the U.S. RECOGNIZED standard for car seat safety;
    3. The IIHS bases this seat belt safety test on a dummy that approximates a 6-year old child. But kids come in different sizes, weights, heights and ages, and you should fit your seat to the specific needs of your kids.
    4. They didn't actually specify their methodology for testing. Given that they're not even recognised as an authority of car seat safety.
    The car seats that you have (ie. Eddie Bauer, Cosco, Britax, Harmony Juvenile, whatever) are required to go through stringent safety tests, or they could not be put on sale -- the government wouldn't certify them, and the retailers wouldn't carry them. The IIHS report is based on SEAT BELT PLACEMENT ONLY, which is a very narrow view of car seat safety.
    I urge you to look at the safety results at the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) - the RECOGNIZED leader in car seat safety. Also, the Juvenile Products Manufacturers Association (JPMA) is also a very reputable source for car seat info.
    The JPMA officially refuted the IIHS report here -
    Anyone can make sensational claims, write reports and get media doesn't mean that they're true. The IIHS is misleading and confusing the customer with the subjective findings of this report. They've really done more of a disservice to the customer than anything. So let's not believe everything we hear before we get all the facts.
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  4. I am the person who authored several of the ground breaking reports in Consumers Union, publisher of CONSUMER REPORTS magazine. We used dynamic sled tests to reproduce crash testing; and I supported the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration in their development of the Federal standards for safe child car restraints. Having said all that to establish my credenbtials, I agree with Susan, but also praise IIHS for keeping this subject active.
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  5. Oh, BTW, thanks to Bengt for posting this piece. I couldn't figure out what "site" it would fit.
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  6. The IIHS report is indeed very ambiguous . Thanks to Carl and Suzan for their comments . Hoping for all of you to shed some light on this topic a little more.
    Post Reply
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  7. Thanks for all of the info! We've been using the Britax Roundabout car seat with both of our children and we absolutely love how committed the company is to safety standards!
    Post Reply
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