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booster seats grab top ratings

booster seats grab top ratings


Child restraint manufacturers continue to roll out new booster seats that do a good job of improving the way an adult safety belt fits a typical booster-age child. This year, 19 of 31 new models evaluated by IIHS earn the top rating of BEST BET, and one model is a GOOD BET.

A surprise came from Britax, a company whose boosters have consistently earned the top two ratings. This year, three new Britax models didn't make their debuts as BEST BETs or GOOD BETs. They are the Frontier 90, Pinnacle 90 and Pioneer 70. These highback seats replaced two Britax boosters that previously earned the top rating. At the same time, Britax improved the design of the Parkway SG to earn a BEST BET rating when it is used as a highback booster. It has a lower rating when it is used as a backless seat. The Britax Parkway SGL also is a BEST BET in highback mode.

Three new Britax highback models, the Pinnacle 90, Pioneer 70 and Frontier 90 (left to right) are designated as Check Fit boosters. Lap belt fit can vary by child size and vehicle model, so parents should try them out first before buying.

Britax highback boosters

The Institute began rating boosters five years ago because research indicated that most seats weren't doing a good job of fitting safety belts correctly and consistently on children in a variety of vehicles. Boosters earn a rating of BEST BET, GOOD BET, Check Fit or Not Recommended, based on a protocol that involves measuring how three-point lap and shoulder belts fit a child-size test dummy seated in the booster on a stationary test fixture under four conditions that span the range of safety belt configurations in passenger vehicles. The evaluations focus on safety belt fit and don't involve crash tests.

"Parents should have an easy time finding a top-rated booster seat since there are more this year than ever before," says Anne McCartt, IIHS senior vice president for research. "At the same time, consumers should continue to consult our ratings before buying because name brand, price and style don't always equate with proper lap and shoulder belt fit."

In all, there are 58 BEST BET and five GOOD BET boosters for 2013, including the newest seats and older models whose ratings carry over from prior years. The Institute assesses boosters as they are introduced to the market. Ratings of boosters with designs that carry over into the next model year remain on the list until the seats are discontinued. Dual-use seats that can be used as either a highback booster or a backless booster get two ratings, one for each mode. The Institute treats these as two distinct seats for ratings purposes, so the names of some models show up twice in the list. Consumers should pay attention to each rating and consider how they will use the seats in their vehicles.

A BEST BET booster correctly positions belts on a typical 4-to-8-year-old child in almost any car, minivan or SUV. A GOOD BET provides acceptable belt fit in most vehicles. Correct belt fit means that the lap belt lies flat across a child's upper thighs and the shoulder belt crosses snugly over the middle of the shoulder.

Among the booster seat designs introduced in 2013, 11 are categorized as Check Fit. The designation means that the booster may provide good belt fit for some children in some vehicles, but not as many as boosters that earn either of the top two ratings. Belt fit can vary depending on child size and vehicle model. Before buying these boosters, parents should try them out to see if they properly position safety belts on their children in the vehicles they will be riding in.

Industry progress

When the Institute published its first-ever ratings in 2008, only 10 of 41 models earned a BEST BET rating, and there were 13 seats on the Not Recommended list (see Status Report special issue: booster seats, Oct. 1, 2008). Now only two seats aren't recommended and when the Institute evaluates a new design, more often than not it lands in BEST BET territory. That is largely because manufacturers have taken note of the ratings and work with the Institute to build seats to do what they are supposed to do — elevate children so safety belts that were designed for adults better fit their smaller frames and put lap/shoulder belts in the proper place for the best protection in a crash.

Britax Frontier 85

Britax Frontier 85

Britax Frontier 90

Britax Frontier 90

The highback Britax Frontier 85 was a BEST BET last year. In IIHS evaluations, the seat correctly positioned the lap belt across the dummy's thighs in all test conditions. Britax introduced the Frontier 90 in 2013. The geometry of the highback booster's armrest doesn't consistently provide the same lap belt fit as the earlier model. In 2 of 4 test conditions the lap belt was too high on the dummy's abdomen, although the shoulder belt fit was good.

Booster fitting photo

An IIHS engineer readies the test fixture and booster seat.

Booster fitting photo

At 52 pounds and 45 inches tall, the dummy represents an average 6-year-old child.

Booster fitting photo

A coordinate measuring machine is used to center the dummy in the booster seat before it is buckled in.

Booster fitting photo

The safety belt is pulled out of the retractor and routed through the lap belt guides. Then it is buckled and routed over the shoulder and through the shoulder belt guide.

Booster fitting photo

The Evenflo Right Fit, a BEST BET, correctly positions both the lap and shoulder belt.

Global , Traffic Safety

Date: 1/15/2014 7:49:30 AM

By: YASA WEB , www.iihs.org
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