In its latest evaluation of child booster seats for cars, the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety's (IIHS) found that most belt-positioning boosters don't offer a consistently good fit in all vehicles. However, IIHS also found that boosters are better than they used to be in the past.
Out of 72 booster seats that were evaluated, 21 earned a "best bet" recommendation, seven were rated "good bets" and eight were not recommended.
The worst performers do a poor job of fitting belts, according to IIHS. A good booster routes the lap belt across a child's upper thighs and positions the shoulder belt at mid-shoulder. The fit of the belt is critical for restraining children in a crash.
This is the first time that top-rated boosters outnumbered those that were not recommended, said Anne McCartt, IIHS senior vice president for research, in a media statement. "Now more than ever manufacturers are paying attention to belt fit, and it's showing up in our ratings."
The 36 boosters that fell in the middle of the ratings don't consistently fit belts well on most kids in most vehicles. Most are backless boosters with good lap belt scores but subpar shoulder belt scores, the institute says. For a full list of evaluated boosters, visit IIHS.
Every state and the District of Columbia has a child restraint law, but they differ when it comes to booster-age kids. In 27 states and D.C., the laws call for children to be strapped until age 8, with exceptions for kids who are too big for their ages. Insurance companies do not dictate how belts should be positioned in boosters.