Mythbuster: Booster cushions do not offer side impact protection – Fact or Myth?
Booster cushions are unable to offer any side impact protection to children.
Why don't they offer side impact protection?
*please note, R44.01 and R44.02 approved seats are illegal to use. Only seats that carry a R44.03, R44.04 or R129 label are legal.
The current child seat approval standard, Regulation 44 (R44) does not include side impact testing. This means that seats can be sold that do not offer any side impact protection to children. Car seats undergo many component safety tests, and the crash test consists of one frontal impact at 32mph, a rear impact at 18mph, and a roll over test.*
There are additional crash tests that seats may undergo, such as the ADAC test, WHICH and the German Stiftung Warentest. These all test to 40mph frontal impact, and they do include a side impact test. Booster cushions do not pass the side impact test.
Side impact testing has become mandatory under the new child seat approval standard R129 iSize. R129 iSize began in 2013, and will not be fully implemented until 2018. Both R44 and R129 approvals are running alongside each other, and will do some for some time after 2018.
Why don’t booster cushions pass a side impact test?
Booster cushions are a belt positioning device, they are simply designed to lift your child up enough so that the adult seat belt restrains them correctly. They do not offer any additional protection.
They don’t pass a side impact test because they do not have a back and side wings to cushion a child from the force of a collision, and they do not place a child near the vehicles side impact protection – children do not benefit from the vehicle’s side and curtain airbags.
Side Impact Test - Booster Cushion v High Back Booster
Why is side impact protection so important to have in your child's car seat?
Side impacts account for 1 in 4 collisions, and they account for 20% of all child road traffic collision fatalities. When you also take into account that a vehicle's side impact protection is designed for adults, and not children, the best way to protect them is with a seat that has passed side impact testing.
Children do not benefit from a vehicle's side impact protection system, so no matter how much tech your car has, a highly tested car seat is essential.
Do Good Egg Safety recommend booster cushions?
No, we do not recommend booster cushions. They do not offer the same protection for children as high back boosters. We encourage parents and carers to use high back boosters when their children have outgrown their group 1, or group 1,2 harnessed car seats.
What about for short trips/friends' cars/emergencies?
A collision can happen at any time, and it doesn’t make allowances for your child being in a friend’s car, or it being a short trip. Your child should use the correct seat for their weight and height on every journey. However, as an absolute last resort, a booster cushion is better than nothing at all. If your child is going to use a cushion, they must be the correct weight and height for it.
Any other concerns?
Booster cushions are very open to misuse, and as they often don’t route the chest belt comfortably for children, they are more likely to put the belt under their arm or behind them. This is extremely dangerous and puts a child at significantly increased risk of serious injury, or worse.
Another problem with booster cushions is the lack of torso support, children are far more likely to lean out of the seat belt when they fall asleep, hugely reducing their protection in a collision.
Why are booster cushions allowed to be sold?
Booster cushions are allowed to be sold because they pass the R44 test. They allow the adult seat belt to hold the child in place during a frontal collision - they do not have to go through a side impact test.