New Booster Seat Ratings: Is Your Kid's Seat Safe?

If you're used to lugging your kid’s booster seat from car to car, you know that making sure she's sitting a few inches above the upholstery isn't so she can see out the window. Booster seats are about safety -- not sightseeing. But does yours make the grade?

On Wednesday, the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety released its booster evaluations for 2010. Seventy-two models were reviewed for safety belt fit and were assigned “Best Bet,” “Good Bet” and  “Not Recommended” ratings. (There’s also a category of “Other Tested Seats,” which, according to the Institute, “can provide good protection for some kids in some vehicles, but not in as many cases as top-rated boosters.”) Of those 72 seats, 21 received the “Best Bet” rating, seven received the “Good Bet” rating, eight were “Not Recommended” because they didn’t help provide a good seat belt fit, and the rest fell into the “Other” category.

The good news? “For the first time, top-rated boosters outnumber ones the Institute doesn't recommend,” Anne McCartt, the Institute’s senior vice president for research, said in a news release. “Now more than ever, manufacturers are paying attention to belt fit, and it's showing up in our ratings.” (Indeed, last year just nine of the 60 seats evaluated earned a “Best Bet” score.) The bad news is that some well-known brand names show up in the "Not Recommended" category, including Eddie Bauer, Evenflo and Safety 1st -- check the list here to be sure your seat isn't included.

Providing a good belt fit, in fact, is the whole point of a booster seat, according to the Institute. While car seatbelts are designed for adults, a good booster seat can help correctly position the belts on little kids. The ideal safety position is the lap belt resting on a child’s upper thighs and the shoulder belt positioned at the child’s mid-shoulder. (See a photo here.)

Research has shown that kids aged 4 through 8 who ride in boosters are 45 percent less likely to sustain injuries in crashes than children restrained by belts alone. And in many states, using a booster seat is the law. So if you're in the market for a good one, see the "Best Bets" list.

How do you make sure your kids are safe in the car? Chime in below!

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