Is Your Child's Car Booster Seat Safe?

Group's test of 60 booster seats finds only 15 get top safety rating.

ByABC News via GMA logo
December 21, 2009, 8:50 PM

Dec. 22, 2009— -- The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety tested 60 different makes and models of child car booster seats, and only 15 of the 60 seats -- seats usually used by 4- to 8-year-olds -- got top ratings.

More and more states now require booster seats that raise a child up so the car's adult seat belt fits them properly, but the federal government doesn't have any guidelines for how booster seats should be designed, so the institute is trying to fill the gap with its annual ratings.

The institute took multiple measurements of 60 child booster seats to see where the seatbelt fell on a specially designed dummy the size of a 6-year-old. IIHS then observed how one seat ranked a "best bet" and another labeled "not recommended" reacted during crash tests.

Click here for the full list of seats tested.

On a booster with a good fit, the shoulder belt runs squarely over the middle of the child's shoulder and the lap belt sits flat across the thighs. On a booster with a bad fit, the shoulder belt slides off the corner of the child's shoulder and the lap belt is too high on the soft stomach. A bad fit at the shoulder can fling kids forward, and at the waist, can cause internal organ injuries.

"The main thing boosters are supposed to do is provide a good belt fit," said Anne McCartt of the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety. "So it is somewhat surprising that some boosters aren't doing that very basic job."

Best Bets

According to the institute, tests show that booster seats that are best bets position children well in relation to the seat belt no matter what type of vehicle they are used in. And the good news is that some of them cost as little as $20.