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Ineffective child booster seats to avoid

September 8, 2010 12:00:00 AM PDT
Child booster seats are better than they used to be at restraining children in vehicle crashes, according to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety. However, there are still some models that do a poor job and cannot be recommended.Unfortunately, there is no federal standard for how a booster seat should work, making the Insurance Institute's tests that much more important.

The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety tested 72 different booster seats, and they rated those that do a good job as "best bet" or "good bet." The Virgina-based Institute gave 21 seats its "best bet" seal and 36 seats its "good bet" seal.

"The way we evaluate booster seats is to assess how well they position the lap and shoulder belts on kids in a range of different vehicle types," said David Zuby of the Insurance Institute.

A booster seat is designed to help the lap and shoulder seat belts fit properly on a child between the ages of 4 and 8. The best boosters offer a consistently good fit, and the Harmony Secure Comfort Deluxe is one of the Insurance Institute's best bets.

"You can see that the lap belt lies flat across the upper thighs not here on the stomach, and the clip helps keep the shoulder belt in the middle of the shoulder so the belts are in good position to provide protection in a crash," Zuby described.

The Evenflo Generations 65 doesn't do the job according to the Institute.

"The main problem is the lap belt is too high on the stomach. Another issue is the shoulder belt is too close to the neck where it will cause comfort issues. The child is liable to wriggle out so the belt won't be in a position to protect him in a crash," Zuby explained.

List of not recommended boosters:

  • Eddie Bauer Deluxe

  • Eddie Bauer Deluxe 3-in-1

  • Evenflo Express

  • Evenflo Generations 65

  • Evenflo Sightseer

  • Harmony Baby Armor Backless Booster

  • Safety 1st All-in-One

  • Safety 1st Omega Elite

In contrast, booster seats built by Britax, Clek, Combi, Dorel, Evenflo and Recaro had "best bet" booster seats for a second straight year.

In 2008, more than 1,000 children lost their lives because they were not restrained properly. A 2009 study found that children ages 4 to 8 who ride in booster seats in the back seat are 45 percent less likely to be injured in crashes than children wearing only seat belts.

The Institute's vice president for research advised parents to be wary of lap belts that ride up on the stomach and also shoulder belts that either fall off the shoulder or rub against the child's neck.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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