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Car-safety group: Half of child booster seats pose risks | Moms

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Car-safety group: Half of child booster seats pose risks
Car-safety group: Half of child booster seats pose risks

Half of children's car booster seats can't ensure a proper fit with all safety belts, an insurance industry-funded safety group says in a report out today.

The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety said six were so bad that it recommended parents avoid them.

Booster seats, which are recommended for children who have outgrown forward-facing child seats, are designed to raise kids up so adult-size safety belts fit properly.

"Not all boosters are doing that well," says Anne McCartt, the institute's research chief.

Children ages 4-8 in booster seats are 45% less likely to be injured in a crash than those using only seat belts.

Booster seats were rated based on how well they fit the roughly 20 million 4- to 8-year-olds with the lap and shoulder belts in a wide range of vehicles.

IIHS says its ratings are important because it's impossible to tell which booster seats are better just by comparing prices or features.

Although IIHS says booster seats have improved in the three years it has been testing them, it is concerned that those requiring parents to check the fit still outnumber the good ones. Of 83 seats tested, 41 got a "check fit" rating because they don't consistently fit well with belts and 36 were rated "best bets" or "good bets" by IIHS.

"A lot of parents don't understand that the purpose of the booster seat is to ensure the vehicle safety belts fit the child, because if they don't there is a potential for injury," says McCartt.

Child-safety advocate Joseph Colella calls it "a very significant regulatory shortfall" that the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration doesn't evaluate booster seats based on how well they position seat belts, as "that is their primary function." Colella, of Traffic Safety Projects, says while IIHS' ratings put pressure on manufacturers to improve belt fit, it should be required, not voluntary.

Four booster seats made by Evenflo and two by Dorel's Safety 1st brand were rated so poorly that IIHS recommended consumers not use them. They are: the Evenflo Chase, Express, Generations 65 and Sightseer models and Safety 1st's All-in-One and Alpha Omega Elite. IIHS said the seats don't "provide proper belt fit."

If seat belts aren't positioned properly, children can hit parts of the vehicle in a crash and even be injured by the belts, which can slice into internal organs.

Dorel spokeswoman Julie Vallese notes five of the company's other seats were "best bets" and says it stands by all of its seats, which "have been proven to protect children" in the real world.

In a statement, Evenflo also pointed out that four of its other seats were "best bets" and one was "good," but still called the study "misleading." The company said IIHS used a "generic testing method," and noted it has sold 10 million booster seats in the last 10 years and doesn't know of any injuries due to improper belt fit.

Underscoring booster seats' effectiveness: IIHS said states that raised requirements for booster seats to cover children through ages 7 or 8 had 17% fewer fatal or debilitating injuries to booster-seat-age children.

IIHS singled out the Canadian company Harmony Juvenile Products as a "standout" in booster-seat design because all five of its seats were "best bets." The first inflatable booster seat, the BubbleBum, also got the top rating.

Booster seats that can be used with or without their high backs were tested both ways and often had different ratings. Fourteen of these "dual-use" boosters were "good" or "best" when backs were used, but got a "check fit" rating when backless.

"The best protection is not provided by 'a booster' but by 'the right booster' for the child and the vehicle," says Colella.

From USA Today


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