Consumer Reports: The best booster seats for children

SAN FRANCISCO (KGO) -- We know that car seats are important for babies and toddlers, but Consumer Reports tells us big kids need a "boost" to keep them safe in the car, too.

Consumer Reports recently held a photo shoot to demonstrate that even after children outgrow the weight or height limit of their forward-facing car seat, most kids still won't be ready to use just a seat belt. The solution? A booster seat.

"Boosters are the best way to protect these 'big kids' in a car crash. It helps position the belt over the strong bony part of their body, rather than their internal organs," said Consumer Reports' Dr. Emily Thomas.

Boosters raise children up so that the seat belt fits correctly -- over the sternum and the center of the collarbone, but not the neck or arm, and low across the upper thighs, rather than the abdomen.

Boosters come in two main styles: high-back and backless. While using a backless one is better than not using one at all, Consumer Reports recommends a high-back booster, because these do a better job of positioning the shoulder belt, and the side wings provide some impact protection in a crash.

The "Evenflo Big Kid Amp Highback" and "Evenflo Big Kid Sport" are Consumer Reports' top rated booster seats.

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"Kids generally need to be in a booster until they are at least 4"9, and between the ages of eight and 12 years old," said Thomas. "Typically, this is when the vehicle seat belt will fit them correctly, and they are more comfortable on the larger vehicle seats. It's also when their bones will be stronger and can better handle the pressure from a seat belt during sudden braking or in a crash," she said.

And even when kids outgrow the need for a booster, Consumer Reports says the safest place for all kids under 13 is in the back seat.

In California, the law requires children 7 years old and younger to be in a booster seat in the back seat.

Consumer Reports is published by Consumers Union. Both Consumer Reports and Consumers Union are not-for-profit organizations that accept no advertising. Neither has any commercial relationship with any advertiser or sponsor on this site.

(All Consumer Reports Material Copyright 2014. Consumers Union of U.S. Inc. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.)

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