A recent report reveals that half of children’s car booster seats can’t ensure a proper fit with all safety belts. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS), which released the report last month, said six seats were so bad that it recommended parents avoid them. Booster seats, which are recommended for children who have outgrown forward-facing child seats, are designed to raise children up so adult-size safety belts fit properly. Anne McCartt, the Institute’s research chief, said that “(n)ot all boosters are doing that well.”
Children ages four to eight in booster seats are 45% less likely to be injured in a crash than those using only seat belts. Booster seats were rated by IIHS based on how well they fit the roughly 20 million children ages four to eight with the lap and shoulder belts in a wide range of vehicles. IIHS says its ratings are important because it’s impossible to tell which booster seats are better just by comparing prices or features. Although IIHS says booster seats have improved in the three years it has been testing them, the Institute is concerned that those requiring parents to check the fit still outnumber the good ones. Of 83 seats tested, 41 got a “check fit” rating because they don’t consistently fit well with belts and 36 were rated “best bets” or “good bets” by IIHS. Ms. McCartt had this to say concerning the lack of understanding by parents:
A lot of parents don’t understand that the purpose of the booster seat is to ensure the vehicle safety belts fit the child, because if they don’t there is a potential for injury.
Child-safety advocate Joseph Colella calls it “a very significant regulatory shortfall” that the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration doesn’t evaluate booster seats based on how well they position seat belts, as “that is their primary function.” Mr. Colella, of Traffic Safety Projects, says while IIHS’ ratings put pressure on manufacturers to improve belt fit, it should be required, not voluntary.
Four booster seats made by Evenflo and two by Dorel’s Safety 1st brand were rated so poorly that IIHS recommended consumers not use them. Those seats are: the Evenflo Chase, Express, Generations 65 and Sightseer models and Safety 1st’s All-in-One and Alpha Omega Elite. IIHS said the seats don’t “provide proper belt fit.” If seat belts aren’t positioned properly, children can hit parts of the vehicle in a crash and even be injured by the belts, which can slice into internal organs.
According to IIHS, states that raised requirements for booster seats to cover children through ages seven or eight years had 17% fewer fatal or debilitating injuries to booster-seat-age children. IIHS singled out Harmony Juvenile Products, a Canadian company, as a “standout” in booster seat design because all five of its seats were “best bets.” The first inflatable booster seat, the BubbleBum, also got the top rating. The companies whose seats didn’t fare well either criticized the report or simply touted their seats as being good and safe.
Booster seats that can be used with or without their high backs were tested both ways and often had different ratings. Fourteen of these “dual-use” boosters were “good” or “best” when backs were used, but got a “check fit” rating when backless. It was pointed out by Mr. Colella that “(t)he best protection is not provided by ‘a booster’ but by ‘the right booster’ for the child and the vehicle.” Most folks don’t realize that child safety seats have an expiration date. While the dates are on the safety seats, stores selling them as a rule don’t tell the purchasers. A typical warning would be: “Do not use this car seat after December 2012.” Lesley Seaton, a spokesperson for the SafeKids Northeast Florida, said there are common mistakes with child safety seats, including using expired ones. She says that the car seats do expire. It was pointed out that the shelf life of a car seat varies on different brands.
Parents should always check the seat’s manual for an expiration date and should also check the seat. The seats need to have a shelf life for a number of reasons. The shell can be broken down and worn out. The harness strap itself that holds the child in safely can be frayed and torn, but still look fine. The seat may have been part of a recall that was missed. We believe that more information must be made available by both the manufacturers and sellers of booster seats for children. Finally, consumers should look at model numbers and manufacture dates when consulting the rating by IIHS.
Source: USA Today and WDAM.com
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