47 child booster seats earn top rating



PITTSBURGH - Some good news for parents, a new study found booster seats are getting better at protecting children.  A total of 47 booster seats got a top rating and only two are not recommended.  Consumer Reporter Robin Taylor takes a look at the ratings.

Booster seats are meant to protect children who are too big for car seats and not big enough for seat belts alone.

The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety tested booster seats to see how well they fit an average 6-year-old in cars, minivans and SUVs, and they found manufacturers are doing a far better job.

In 2008, when the Institute first began testing booster seats, most were not rated a Best Bet.  Now, a majority of seats are in that category.

"What we found is that most boosters are doing a much better job providing a good belt fit than just a few years ago," said Anne McCarrt, senior vice president of research at the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety.

There are two kinds of booster seats, those with backs and those without.  The study found both kinds work well as long as the seat belt is positioned properly.

"With a good booster, the lap belt lies flat across the upper thighs, not riding up on the tummy.  The shoulder belt fits snugly across the center of the shoulder.  It's not sliding off the shoulder or riding up on the neck," said McCarrt.

This year's top-rated boosters retail for as little as $19.  They include the popular backless Graco TurboBooster, which sells for about $26; the highback TurboBooster, which retails for about $50; and the backless Harmony Carpooler, that starts at about $35.

The two booster seats that are not recommended are, Safety First All-in-One and Safety First Alpha Omega Elite.  Both are older 3-in-1 models that can be converted from rear-facing to forward-facing car seats as a child grows.

The institute said those models leave the lap belt too high on the abdomen and the shoulder belt too far out on the shoulder.

"Most of the older boosters with poor ratings have either been redesigned or taken off the market," said McCarrt.

15 out of 17 new models 2012 got the top rating as a Best Bet, which shows manufacturers are acting on the institute’s recommendations.