Arlington, Virginia – Booster seats are better than they used to be for fitting lap and shoulder belts on children, but most don’t offer consistently good fit in all vehicles, and eight failed the grade when tested, according to the U.S. Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS).

Researchers assessed the safety belt fit of 72 boosters, assigning “Best Bet” or “Good Bet” ratings when they correctly positioned the belts on average booster-aged children in most vehicles. The worst performers were not recommended because they did a poor job of fitting belts. A good booster routes the lap belt across the child’s upper thighs and positions the shoulder belt at mid-shoulder.

The IIHS doesn’t conduct vehicle crash tests to evaluate boosters because the seats themselves don’t restrain the child in a crash; rather, it is the fit of the vehicle’s seatbelt that is important.

“For the first time, top-rated boosters outnumber ones the Institute doesn’t recommend,” said Anne McCartt, IIHS senior vice-president for research. “Now, more than ever, manufacturers are paying attention to belt fit, and it’s showing up in our ratings.”

In this year’s assessment, 21 boosters were named “Best Bet” models, while seven earned “Good Bet”, and eight were not recommended. Last year, only nine seats out of 60 evaluated earned the Best Bet designation. The IIHS said that even though poor-performing seats make up a smaller percentage of boosters evaluated this year, 36 fall in the middle because they don’t consistently fit belts well on most children in most cars, minivans and SUVs. Most are backless boosters with good lap belt scores, but not good shoulder belt scores. The IIHS assesses boosters using a crash test dummy representing an average-six six-year-old, measuring how three-point lap and shoulder belts fit the dummy in each of the boosters under four conditions spanning the range of belt configurations in a wide variety of vehicle types. A booster’s overall rating is based on the range of scores for each measurement.

“Unlike the top performers, consumers can’t assume boosters in the in-between group will work in every family vehicle,” McCartt said. “Some may be fine, but parents still need to try them out to see if the lap and shoulder belts fit their kids correctly.” McCartt said that obvious red flags are lap belts that ride up on the stomach, and should belts that either fall off the shoulder or rub against the child’s neck.

The IIHS results were:

Best Bets:

 Britax Frontier 85 (combination highback)
Chicco Keyfit Strada (dual highback)
Clek Oobr (dual highback)
Cosco Juvenile Pronto (dual highback)
Cybex Solution X-Fix (highback)
Eddie Bauer Auto Booster (dual highback)
Evenflo Big Kid Amp (backless)
Evenflo Maestro (combination highback)
Graco TurboBooster Crawford (dual highback)
Harmony Baby Armor (dual highback)
Harmony Dreamtime (dual backless)
Harmony Dreamtime (dual highback)
Harmony Secure Comfort Deluxe (backless)
Harmony Youth Booster Seat (backless)
Maxi-Cosi Rodi XR (dual highback)
Recaro ProBOOSTER (highback)
Recaro ProSPORT (combination highback)
Recaro Vivo (highback)
Recaro Young Sport (combination highback)
Safety 1st Boost Air Protect (dual highback)
The First Years Pathway B570 (highback)

Good Bets:

Britax Parkway SG (dual highback)
Combi Kobuk Air Thru (dual backless)
Combi Kobuk Air Thru (dual highback)
Evenflo Symphony 65 (3-in-1 highback)
Graco TurboBooster Sachi (dual highback)
Graco TurboBooster Wander (dual highback)
Maxi-Cosi Rodi (dual highback)

Not Recommended:

Eddie Bauer Deluxe (combination highback)
Eddie Bauer Deluxe 3-in-1 (highback)
Evenflo Express (combination highback)
Evenflo Generations 65 (combination highback)
Evenflo Sightseer (highback)
Harmony Baby Armor (dual backless)
Safety 1st All-in-One (3-in-1 highback)
Safety 1st Alpha Omega Elite (3-in-1 highback)

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