Your Child's Booster Seat Might Not Be Safe After All

safety first booster seatSafety-conscious parents, prepare to get really angry. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety has come out with a new study that says HALF of the booster seats that claim to keep our kids safe in the backseat of our cars are failing at the job. And then the news gets really scary.

According to the IIHS, the primary function of a booster seat -- how well it positions a car's seat belt on a kid's body -- is one thing the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration doesn't even bother to check. Excuse me? The entire point of a booster seat is to take advantage of the pre-installed seat belt. And now I'm finding out that no one has bothered to make sure the two work in concert? Whoa!


To be fair, the IIHS and the NHTSA are two agencies both competing for attention from parents; you'd almost expect one to badmouth the other. And if you look at each group's basic instructions for HOW a seat belt should lie across a child's body, they agree. The NHTSA advice for parents is pretty sound:

For a seat belt to fit properly the lap belt must lie snugly across the upper thighs, not the stomach. The shoulder belt should lie snug across the shoulder and chest and not cross the neck or face. Remember: your child should still ride in the back seat because it’s safer there.

But like most safety-conscious parents, I have looked to the federally-funded NHTSA as a guiding light in trying to keep my child safe. When it came time to move my 6-year-old into a booster seat (based on the height of her shoulders, she was no longer safe in a 5-point-harness), their list was one of the first places I looked. To think that they don't even take into account one of the very safety concerns they warn parents about makes me angry.

Now how's this for irony? Many of the seats that came out with excellent ratings by the IIHS with its more intensive seat belt scrutinizing regimen got poor marks from the NHTSA on "securing a child." It sounds like the IIHS might be right on the money, huh?

So what does the IIHS say you should steer clear of completely because of an improper seat belt fit?

  • Evenflo Chase
  • Evenflo Express
  • Evenflo Generations 65
  • Evenflo Sightseer
  • Safety 1st All-in-One
  • Safety 1st Alpha Omega Elite

They've also got a list of best bets (breathing a sigh of relief here because my NHTSA-well-rated Clek Oobr made the cut) and a few you should "check" the fit on -- no matter what the NHTSA says.

Is your kid's booster seat on the list? Did you know booster seats weren't always judged on the way they function with a seat belt?


Image via IIHS

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