If you’re a parent, keeping your child safe, on and off the road, should be one of your top priorities. While it is common knowledge that small children need to be properly restrained in a forward-facing car seat, it is important to remember that the next step isn’t a seat belt, it’s a booster seat.
According to HealthyChildren.org, children who have outgrown their forward-facing car seat should sit in a booster seat for safety reasons. Children should stay in a booster seat until seat belts fit correctly which is typically when the child reaches about 4′ 9″ in height and is between 8 and 12 years old.
But unlike other items, you can’t judge the quality and safety of a booster seat by the price, design, features and brand.
So how do you tell the good from the bad?
Luckily, the Insurance Institute of Highway Safety (IIHS) has done the research for you. In their most recent study the IIHS a record 31 booster seats as best bets – meaning they correctly position the safety belt on the child passenger in almost any car, minivan or SUV – with another five as good bets, seats that give an acceptable belt fit in most vehicles. Six of these booster seats were labeled as not recommended because the seat belts did not fit well.
Here are the results of the IIHS 2011 booster seat evaluation.
The following best bets are the most likely to position lap and shoulder belts correctly on most children in most cars, minivans and SUVs:
The following five good bets provide acceptable lap and shoulder fit in almost as many vehicle belt configurations as the best bet boosters:
According to the IIHS, parents should avoid buying the following six booster seats because they do not provide a good seat belt fit. But, if you own one of these boosters, you shouldn’t throw it away because any booster seat is better than no booster seat. However, if it’s not too late, you should considering returning the seat and purchasing another.