When it Comes to a Child’s Booster Seat, Proper Fit is Key, According to New Insurance Institute for Highway Safety Rankings
By: Dean Xenick (December 2011)
This past October, the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) issued its newest ratings for children's booster seats with the goal of providing parents (and caregivers alike) with valuable information on how to select the right booster seats for their children. The IIHS went so far as specifically identifying those booster seats which are most likely to provide good lap and shoulder belt fit in a range of vehicles.
The IIHS article stated, "Unlike child restraints with built-in harnesses, a booster seat relies on a vehicle safety belt to buckle the child in. Its purpose is to make the adult belt fit the child better. Booster seats are for kids who have outgrown their forward-facing restraints."
Because traditional vehicle safety belts are designed with adults in mind, and not children or their booster seats, a proper fit between the booster seat, seat belt, and child is imperative to ensure proper restraint in the event of a collision. "When a booster seat is doing its job, the vehicle belt will fit a child correctly,” the article said. “That means the lap belt will lie flat across a child's upper thighs, not across the soft abdomen, and the shoulder belt will cross snugly over the middle of a child's shoulder."
In conducting their testing and issuing the results, the IIHS assessed the booster seats “using a special crash test dummy representing an average-size 6 year-old. Engineers measure how 3-point lap and shoulder belts fit the dummy in each of the tested boosters under 4 conditions that span the range of safety belt configurations in vehicle models. An overall rating for each booster is then assigned based on the range of scores for the lap and shoulder belt measurements."
The IIHS assigned the booster seats a rating, based upon four categories:
BEST BETS: Seats that provide a good fit for typical 4 to 8 year-olds in almost any car, minivan, or SUV.
GOOD BETS: Seats that provide an acceptable fit in most cars, minivans, or SUVs.
NOT RECOMMENDED: Those seats that don’t provide a good fit and should be avoided.
CHECK FIT: Booster seats the Institute has tested but have varied results depending on child size, vehicle model.
The article also provided guidelines for proper booster seat fit, stating that "both the lap and shoulder belts must fit your child correctly.”
The lap belt should lie flat and on top of the thighs, not higher up on the abdomen. While the shoulder belt should fit across the middle of the child's shoulder. If it falls off the shoulder or rests on the neck, it won't work as well. An improper fit could also encourage your child to move the belt to a dangerous position, such as behind the back or under the arm.
At BCLC, we urge our family, friends, colleagues and clients to take the IIHS’s advice and safety rankings to heart, check how the booster seat you are currently using ranks, and make sure that you are buckling up your children correctly.
For more information, visit: http://www.iihs.org/research/topics/boosters/default.html
NOTE: All of the information contained in this article was obtained from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, who is solely responsible for its testing and findings.