Think riding in the car is safe with your child as long as he is in a booster seat? Think again. New research by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety and the University of Michigan Transportation Research Institute found that some booster seats might be better than others at preventing internal injuries in a crash.
Booster seats are designed to elevate kids so that seatbelts designed for adults fit them in the right places, says Russ Rader, director of media relations at the IIHS. Seatbelts should rest across the pelvis and the middle of the shoulder. When a booster doesn’t raise a child high enough, or tilts them at the wrong angle, belts can rest on the abdomen or across the neck and increase chances of injury in an accident.
Of 41 tested models, 13 didn’t improve seatbelt fit for kids so the IIHS doesn’t recommend them.
Using a booster seat effectively and appropriately doesn’t have to be complicated, Rader says. Simply make sure the lap belt fits flat across the upper thighs, not across the tummy, and that the shoulder belt fits across the middle of the shoulder, not off it or too close to the neck.
When buying boosters, parents should insist on testing the seat’s fit in their own car and with their own child.
"Stores should allow you to take a booster seat you’re looking at out to your car and make sure that the seat and the car and your child fit together. The seat and fit can vary from seat to seat, car to car and child to child."
But even if you have one of the non-recommended boosters, don’t stop using it, Rader says. Even the boosters rated as less effective reduce the risk of injury.
"Even a booster seat that’s providing poor belt fit is better than leaving a child unrestrained or in an adult seat belt," Rader says.
Access all the booster seat evaluations at iihs.org.
Booster seats not recommended by the IIHS:
Compass B505, Compass B510, Cosco/Dorel Traveler, Evenflo Big Kid Confidence, Safety Angel Ride Ryte, Cosco/Dorel Alpha Omega, Cosco/Dorel (Eddie Bauer) Summit, Cosco Highback Booster, Dorel/Safety 1st (Eddie Bauer) Prospect, Evenflo Chase Comfort Touch, Evenflo Generations, Graco CarGo Zephyr and Safety 1st/Dorel Intera.