The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) has developed a new tool to evaluate the effectiveness of child booster safety seats. Meet Jasper. His name is an acronym for Juvenile Anthropomorphic Seat-belt Position Evaluation Rig. Jasper weighs 45 pounds and represents a typical six-year old. This dummy replaces the Hybrid III 6-year old dummy, a complex tool which was better suited for crash testing. The Hybrid III 6-year old dummy had several shortcomings in its design which made it less than ideal for evaluating booster seat effectiveness.
The IIHS has been evaluating booster seats since 2008, because generally vehicle safety belts are designed for adults, while the job of the booster seat is to make them fit a child. The organization’s ratings are based on the ability of the booster seat to provide good lap and shoulder-belt fit for a typical child, ages four to eight. Upto last year, the IIHS had measured belt-fit using this tool. Jasper is easier to use and cheaper to maintain and obtain replacement parts for. The IIHS hopes that booster seat manufacturers will use it “in-house” as part of the design process for new seats.
Ironically, Jasper lacks arms because they typically get in the way when evaluating belt fit. The scales for belt fit measurements printed directly onto Jasper, so that it can be used as a ruler without the need for additional measuring tools.
The IIHS strives to cover the entire US booster market with its ratings. Currently, the organization has rated a total of 151 booster seats currently on the market. The ratings system is as follows:
BEST BET – Provides good belt fit for typical four-to-eight year-olds in almost any car, minivan or SUV.
GOOD BET – Provides acceptable belt fit in most cars, minivans or SUVs.
CHECK FIT – Has varied results depending on child size and vehicle model.
NOT RECOMMENDED – Does not provide good belt fit and should be avoided.
Of the sixteen new models evaluated by the IIHS for 2017, thirteen earned a BEST BET rating, while three were rated CHECK FIT.
If you worry that a BEST BET rating also means a high price, consider that the Harmony Youth Booster and Diono Hip at the least expensive at $13 each. At the top of the range is the highback Maxi-Cosi RodiFix.