If your child is over the age of 4, they should be in a booster seat while riding in the car, and now you have the option to keep them even safer and more comfortable with the new and improved safety seats.

Child Booster Seats are Becoming More Safe

Child booster seats are used for children between the ages of 4-8 years old, and for kids under 4' 9". The IIHS (Insurance Institute for Highway Safety) began rating these child seats five years ago and gave the seats ratings of:

  • Not Recommended
  • Check Fit
  • Good Bet
  • Best Bet

They started this test because they discovered that just a few years ago; most car seats on the market for older toddlers were not doing a good job of fitting with an adult safety belt correctly.

The seats earn their score based on a protocol that includes measuring how a three-point lap and shoulder belt fits a child-size test dummy in a booster seat. The test includes four different conditions you could encounter while driving, but don't include crash tests. The tests are done to check the safety belt fit, and to make sure they do not fit the child in a harmful way.

More Booster Seats Earning Higher Ratings in the IIHS Safety Test

Recently the IIHS senior vice president of research, Anne McCartt said, "Parents should have an easy time finding a top-rated booster seat since there are more available this year than ever before. At the same time, consumers should continue to consult our ratings before buying because name brand, price, and style don't always equate with proper lap and shoulder belt fit."

This year there are 58 Best Bet and five Good Bet booster seats hitting store shelves. These include new seats being released and older seats whose ratings will carry over from the previous years if there is no major re-design on them. There are booster seats that will convert from a high back booster into a backless seat and these seats have two different ratings for each position. Many times the backless rating will be lower than the high back rating because there is no way to get the adult seat belt off the child's neck; which is why this method is only recommended for use with taller and older children who sit higher in the seat.

How the Booster Seats Fit

In order for a booster seat to earn the highest rating of Best Bet they must allow the adult seat belt to be positioned on a typical 4-8 year old child correctly and comfortably – lying across their shoulder and their upper thighs snugly. If the fit isn't perfect, but it is acceptable and won't cause harm to the child, then the seat will earn the rating of Good Bet.

This year there were 31 new models of booster seats introduced to the market this year and 11 of them earned a Check Fit rating. This means rating means that you should try to put your child in the seat in your vehicle before buying it. Depending on the size of the child, some of the adult seat belts fit perfectly, and others were not so great. Each child is different, and not every seat will fit them the right way.

Car Seats Have Evolved Over the Years

The first ratings of booster seats were published in 2008 and at that time there were 41 models tested. Scary enough, only 19 of those models earned the top rating of Best Bet, and there were 13 on the Not Recommended list. Manufacturers have now been taking notes on how the test rates their products, and as a result have greatly increased the safety of them. In the most recent test conducted, only two seats were deemed Not Recommended, which is a huge step up. You can now go to the store and buy a booster seat for your child and have confidence that it will keep them safe because they are finally doing what they are supposed to be doing – boosting the child up so that the rear seat belts made for adults will fit them correctly without causing any harm in case of an accident.

When booster seats first hit the market, their clip strap that would route the seat belt to the correct position was located on the sides of the seat, now manufacturers have moved it to the middle of the seat which allows the belt to lie flatly across the middle of the shoulder. Most of the old lap belts also used to sit too high on the child's abdomen and could have caused harm to the child if the vehicle were to crash, but now those angles have been reconfigured on most of the models. The lap belts now lay snug across the child's upper thighs and off their stomach.

As We See It

Children should remain in a booster seat until they reach the height and weight limits given in the manual. You can now feel confident that this is where your child will be safest while taking family road trips this Holiday season because the booster seat you got has great ratings. There is no more guessing game as to whether or not the seat belt will fit correctly on your child because the manufacturers are continuing to get it right.

Now, all you need to do is make sure that your vehicle will fit your child's seat perfectly and without worrying about it coming loose. If you're driving around in a vehicle that is older, your seats may not be equipped to fit a child's car seat securely. You can get into a new vehicle that is up-to-date with safety features and will fit almost any new child seat when you apply for auto financing with Auto Credit Express. Even if your credit is bad, we can help you. Submit your application today, and pack your kiddos up safely for a road trip tomorrow!