Child Passenger Safety Week is coming up here in New Jersey, so to help ensure your favorite little traveler is secure in your back seat, we’re taking a look at some of the newest information regarding booster car seat safety.
NBC’s Today Show recently aired a segment on booster car seat ratings with some surprising revelations. Quite a few popular brands tested poorly in the 2010 Insurance Institute for Highway Safety assessments. Eddie Bauer, Evenflo, and Safety 1st were among those with models on the “Not Recommended” list — but interestingly, they also had models on the “Best Bet” list! How can there be such a difference from one model to the next? It all comes down to the fit.
A booster car seat is designed to bridge the gap between the five-point harness of the convertible car seat and the adult-sized standard vehicle seat belt. Children who are not quite 4’9″ tall need a little “boost” to bring them up to the proper height for the adult belt to be effective. A correctly-installed booster seat guides the lap belt flat across the child’s upper thighs (not the belly) and the shoulder belt across the chest (not the neck). A proper fit means a reduced risk of serious injury in a crash, so getting it right is essential.
Unfortunately, evaluators have found that the fit changes from one vehicle to the next, and this is what the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety took into consideration when compiling their 2010 recommendations. Its “Best Bet” booster car seats are most likely to be compatible with any car, van, or SUV’s seat belt system. “Good Bet” boosters are compatible in almost as many vehicles, and “Not Recommended” boosters are not compatible with many vehicles. While a booster seat on the “Not Recommended” list may work wonderfully in the roomy Dodge Durango, the same seat may perform terribly in the compact Honda Fit — check out the full list.
When shopping for a booster car seat for your little passenger, it’s important to keep your vehicle model in mind. You’ll want to make sure that the booster you’re considering fits properly in your car and secures your child correctly and comfortably. Bring your child to the store with you to demo the seat before making a purchase whenever possible. Many baby gear stores will allow you to pull your vehicle curbside and install a floor model before making a decision.
Once you’ve invested in a quality booster seat, consider attending a car seat safety check to be sure you’ve installed it correctly (only 1 in 4 car seats are!). Many police and fire departments offer this free service, or you can visit the New Jersey Division of Highway Traffic Safety website for an ongoing list of FREE car seat safety checks throughout the state. It takes just a few minutes to get the fit right, and it may just turn out to be a lifesaving move.