ARLINGTON, Va. (CBSNews) – Thirteen out of 16 new booster seats for 2017 earn the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety’s highest rating of BEST BET, bringing the total number of boosters on the market with that designation to 118.
The BEST BET rating means a booster provides good safety belt fit for typical 4 to 8 year-olds in almost any car, minivan or SUV. Boosters that are rated GOOD BETs provide acceptable belt fit in almost any vehicle, while those rated Check Fit could work for some children in some vehicles. Seats designated “Not Recommended” don’t provide good belt fit and should be avoided.
Three of the newly rated boosters are rated Check Fit. None are Not Recommended. You can read the full report here.
Vehicle safety belts are designed for adults, and the job of a booster is to make them fit a child. IIHS has been rating boosters since 2008 on their ability to provide good lap and shoulder belt fit.
IIHS strives to cover the entire U.S. booster market with its ratings. The 16 seats added this year are made up of 12 distinct models; four are rated twice because they are dual-use boosters that can be used either in highback or backless mode.
The 13 new BEST BETs (nine distinct models) range in price from about $40 for the highback Cosco Finale and the backless Chicco GoFit to $250 for the highback Maxi-Cosi RodiFix. Among booster seats currently on the market, the Harmony Youth Booster and the Diono Hip are the least expensive at $13 each.
“You don’t have to spend a lot of money to get a quality booster seat. Unlike more complicated harness-equipped restraints, a booster is a simple device that doesn’t require any special features to do its job,” says IIHS Senior Research Engineer Jessica Jermakian. “Boosters need to elevate the child and guide the lap belt so that it lies flat on the upper thighs and not up against the tummy and position the shoulder belt so that it fits snugly across the middle of the shoulder.”
Booster seats are designed for children who have outgrown harness-equipped restraints. Children ages 4-8 are 45 percent less likely to sustain injuries in crashes if they are in boosters than if they are using safety belts alone.
Children should ride in boosters until a vehicle safety belt fits correctly by itself. For some kids, that doesn’t happen until age 12 or so.
Ensuring that children are in the right kind of car seat for their age and size is a critical step for reducing highway deaths, which have been on the rise. Deaths of children ages 4 to 8 — the most common ages for booster users — rose to 13.8 per million children in 2016 from 11.5 in 2012. Deaths of children ages 9 to 12, many of whom still need boosters, rose to 12.4 per million children in 2016, compared with 9.7 in 2012.