Booster seats, for the uninitiated, are for kids between 4 and 8 who have outgrown their car seats, and are required by law in 48 states and Washington, D.C. And rightly so—research has shown that when kids sit in a booster, they are 45 percent less likely to be injured in a crash.
But when IIHS first started assessing boosters eight years ago using a special crash-test dummy representing an average-size 6-year-old, only a quarter of the seats ended up being worthy of the Institute's highest rating. This time around, however, of the 53 new booster seats tested, a whopping 48 received the highest grade.
"Parents looking for a safe option for kids who have outgrown seats with built-in harnesses have more choices than ever," said IIHS senior research engineer Jessica Jermakian.
Nevertheless, the IIHS cautions that there are a few models you should probably steer clear of—like the Cosco Easy Elite and the Cosco Highback 2-in-1 DX, Diono Olympia, Diono Pacifica, and Safety 1st Summit 65—since they aren't up to standards. But if you already have one of these seats, there's no need to toss it right away.
"Any booster seat is better than none at all," the IIHS explained in its report. "But take a look at the belt fit, and if it's not doing a good job, replace it when you can with one that works better."