10/13/2011 12:00:00 AM
JPMA Statement on the IIHS - Booster Seat Belt Fit Report Issued October 12, 2011
The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) has issued their fourth annual report that finds more booster seat models meet the IIHS belt fit criteria, earning a “Best Bet” or “Good Bet’ rating. The report also includes research results documenting the safety benefits of using booster seats with children from 4 to 8 years of age.
As in the past, the report provides belt fit ratings for many models of booster car seats based on an assessment of vehicle seat belt fit on an average size 6 year old child when secured in a belt-positioning booster car seat using a wide range of vehicle belt anchorages which represent the seat belt systems in vehicles on the road today. However, the evaluation does not include evaluations for children at the lower and higher ends of the use range for the seats nor does it include evaluations of crash tests or crash protection.
It is well known that booster seats are effective at reducing the risk of injury in vehicle crashes. As noted in the IIHS report, historic results indicate that children ages 4-8 in boosters are 45 percent less likely to sustain injuries than kids restrained by belts alone. This reduction in injury risk is based on use of a number of booster car seat models including some that are rated “check fit” or “not recommended” by the IIHS.
Many of the models listed in the “Check Fit” rating are no-back or backless boosters which are often preferred by parents for portability from vehicle to vehicle and by older children as these seats do not look like a “baby seat.” JPMA agrees that when purchasing a booster that a parent needs to check the specific combination of the child, the vehicle and the booster to confirm good vehicle belt fit.
Since the initial announcement of the IIHS Belt Fit program and the publishing of their evaluation criteria four years ago, car seat manufacturers have included these new criteria along with the many other design criteria referenced when designing booster seats or making revisions to booster seat designs. As a result of this effort, the number of booster car seats which have received a “Best Bet” and “Good Bet” rating has increased significantly.
Booster car seats are regulated by design and testing requirements by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) and are engineered to achieve optimum performance, acceptance by children and ease of use for parents. Since the development of the IIHS belt fit evaluation procedures, car seat manufacturers have been evaluating the procedure in conjunction with the dynamic performance and carefully adjusting designs to better accommodate the range of vehicle belt anchorages represented by the IIHS procedure. The dedicated effort from the car seat manufacturers has resulted in more booster seat models with higher or improved ratings under this new procedure.
- The number of models in the “Best Bets” and “Good Bets” categories has increased significantly.
- Some of the booster seats in this study have been given a “Not Recommended” rating for belt fit even though real world experience for these specific seats, as well as with all booster seats, is that they are providing good protection in vehicle crashes.
- IIHS states that the biggest group of boosters fall in the middle category – designated “check fit” – because these seats may provide good fit for some children in some vehicles, but cannot be designated as a Good Bet or Best Bet for these reasons. For the boosters in that middle grouping in the report, it is emphasized that in order to confirm belt fit, parents need to check the belt fit for a child in the specific vehicle in which it will be used.
- Many of the “Unrated Seats” are backless booster seats, but real world experience indicates that the benefits were not significantly different for children in either backless or high back booster seats according to findings by Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia. The findings are a result of analyzing insurance claim data from crashes in 16 states and the District of Columbia from 1998-2007 involving 6,591 crashes involving booster seats like those that are included in the IIHS ratings.
- Real world experience has demonstrated the safety benefits of booster car seats and research like that conducted by IIHS can provide tools to evaluate and optimize already good performing designs. However the ranking of booster car seats and the classification of some as “Not Recommended” based on minor belt position variations that are not realistic in day-to-day use of a booster car seat is not appropriate.
- A “Not Recommended” rating does not mean that the product is unsafe. Instead it indicates that the seat belt is not optimally positioned per the evaluation criteria established by IIHS using an anthropometric test dummy representing an average 6- year-old child, and not with real children. Basing the “Not Recommended” rating only on optimum belt fit to a test dummy and ignoring the proven positive crash protection afforded to children by boosters is short sighted.
- A “Not Recommended” rating for booster seats that have demonstrated a very positive reduction in the risk of injury in real world crashes is counterproductive as it can lead to consumer confusion, loss of confidence in the product and ultimately a reduction in use rates.
JPMA and its members agree that the primary purpose of a belt positioning booster is to lift up and reposition a child so the vehicle seat belts fit better. Proper belt positioning places the lap belt low on the hips, touching the thighs, with the shoulder belt centered on the chest and over the shoulder. A key aspect of providing this vehicle belt fit is to prevent submarining that can lead to abdominal injuries and spinal cord injury often referred to as “seat belt syndrome”. JPMA is not aware of any reports of abdominal injury in crashes in booster car seats, and no crash testing was conducted as part of the study to asses seat belt fit.
About the Juvenile Products Manufacturers Association The Juvenile Products Manufacturers Association (JPMA) is a national trade organization of more than 250 companies in the United States, Canada and Mexico. JPMA exists to advance the interests, growth and well-being of North American prenatal to preschool product manufacturers, importers and distributors marketing under their own brands to consumers. It does so through advocacy, public relations, information sharing, product performance certification and business development assistance conducted with appreciation for the needs of parents, children and retailers. Each year, JPMA sponsors Baby Safety Month in September to educate parents and caregivers on the importance of the safe use and selection of juvenile products.
To find out more information about the JPMA Certification Program, the products certified and for a complete listing of JPMA members, please visit www.jpma.org. Follow JPMA on Twitter @JPMA, connect with JPMA on Facebook or on YouTube and visit www.jpma.org to learn more about additional safety tips and other JPMA initiatives.
Linda Woody, JPMA Communications Manager
The information on this page was accurate at the time of posting.