Booster Seat Brands and Varieties
Booster seats raise children so the seat belts fit properly and reduce the risk of accident injury. Adult seat belts may cause injury because they don't support children securely.
Backless boosters appear less "babyish," so are often preferred by older children. Easily transferred from vehicle to vehicle, they are compact and lightweight. Use of a backless booster requires a rear seating area with a high seat back or headrest to prevent whiplash injuries. The top of the rear car seat should be higher than the top of the child's ears. Often, backless boosters come with a shoulder belt adjuster if the shoulder belt does not fit securely and in the right position. It should not cut in near their neck and should lay flush on their shoulder.
If there is no rear headrest available, high-back boosters provides better head support in vehicles with a low-seat back. Some studies have concluded that high-back boosters improve protection in side-impact crashes because of better head support.
There are two types of high-back boosters:
- Belt Position Boosters
- Combination Seats
Belt Position Boosters (BPB) are used forward-facing only and used with the adult lap and seat belt. The shoulder belt should cross the chest, resting snugly on the shoulder, and the lap belt should rest low across the upper thighs. The lap belt should never reach the stomach. 2-to-1 Eddie Bauer Highback Booster, Evenflo - Big Kid High Back Booster, Costco Juvenile Eldorado Pronto and Britax Parkway SG are BPB car seats allowing recline positions for napping children.
The 2-to-1 Eddie Bauer Highback Booster includes Lower Anchors and Tethers for Children (LATCH). LATCH is a system for installing a car seat which consists of a belt with hooks on the end and an upper tether. Used in place of the vehicle seat belts, LATCH anchors are typically found in the back seat in the crack between the bottom seat cushhion and the back cushion. Read the vehicle's instruction manual to determine where to install your LATCH system.
Combination Seats have a forward-facing internal harness plus the ability to convert to a Belt Positioning Booster. These are very popular choices for parents hoping to get more use from their car seat because of weight limits of approximately 30 - 100 lbs.
Most combination boosters require the use of the shoulder and lap belt after the child weighs 40 lbs, although some harnesses can be used at 65 to 80 lbs. The Britax Frontier 85 Combination Harness-2-Booster ($225.00) boasts a five-point harnessed weight capacity up to 85 pounds with a 20 inch shoulder harness height. The seat also serves as a vehicle belt-positioning booster up to 120 pounds. Evenflo's Maestro Booster's ($84.99) internal 5-point harness is rated to 20-50 and 40 - 100 lbs with a vehicle seat belt.
The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (I.I.H.S) recommends 21 booster seats which provide good lap and should belt fit for typical four to eight year olds. The list includes booster seats that are over $200, as well as seats as low as $28.