Meet Jasper: IIHS introduces new dummy for booster evaluations

November 21, 2017

A specially designed dummy is simplifying IIHS booster evaluations. Dubbed Jasper, the dummy should make it easier for manufacturers to design seats that provide proper safety belt fit for young passengers.

IIHS began using Jasper to measure boosters during the latest round of evaluations. A total of 16 new boosters for 2017 are rated. Thirteen of them earn the highest rating of Best Bet, meaning they provide good belt fit for typical 4 to 8 year-olds in almost any car, minivan or SUV. The other three are rated Check Fit, meaning they could work for some children in some vehicles. None of the new seats are rated Not Recommended.

With the new additions, consumers can find ratings for a total of 151 boosters currently on the market, including 118 Best Bets and nine Good Bets, which provide acceptable belt fit in most vehicles. Only one current seat — the Safety 1st Summit 65 — is Not Recommended and should be avoided. Four other seats rated Not Recommended were discontinued this year.

New dummy is better for the task

Vehicle safety belts are designed for adults, and the job of a booster is to make them fit a child. IIHS has been rating boosters since 2008 on their ability to provide good lap and shoulder belt fit.

Up until now, the Institute has measured belt fit using a crash test dummy that represents a 6-year-old child. That dummy, known as the Hybrid III 6 year-old, is a complex tool designed for dynamic tests.

"The Hybrid III 6 year-old is expensive and more complicated than what we need and actually isn't ideal for measuring belt fit," says IIHS Senior Research Engineer Jessica Jermakian.

"Jasper will be easier to use and cheaper to buy and obtain replacement parts for. Because it's more accessible, we hope that booster manufacturers will be able to use it in-house as part of the design process for new seats."

The name "Jasper" is an acronym for Juvenile Anthropomorphic Seat-belt Position Evaluation Rig. IIHS worked with Humanetics, the maker of the Hybrid III 6 year-old, to develop Jasper, and the Michigan-based company manufactures and sells the new dummy. The 45-pound Jasper represents a typical 6 year-old.

The Hybrid III 6 year-old has skin made of a material that can shrink over time and has movable parts so that it moves like a human in a crash test. It also has a gap between the pelvis and the thigh that the belt can slip into. When using it for booster evaluations, a silicone shield must be placed over the gap.

In contrast, Jasper is 3D-printed out of a UV-cured liquid polymer that resists shrinkage and distortion. It has only a few movable parts and has a seamless pelvis, so no additional lap shield is needed. The new dummy lacks arms, since they can get in the way during booster evaluations.

Another difference is that the scales for belt fit measurement are printed directly on Jasper. This way, it can be used like a ruler without the need for additional measuring tools.

Sixteen new models in 2017

IIHS strives to cover the entire U.S. booster market with its ratings. This year, manufacturers added 16 seats to their line-ups. The 16 are made up of 12 distinct models; four are rated twice because they are dual-use boosters that can be used either in highback or backless mode.

The 13 new Best Bets (nine distinct models) range in price from about $40 for the highback Cosco Finale and the backless Chicco GoFit to $250 for the highback Maxi-Cosi RodiFix. Among booster seats currently on the market, the Harmony Youth Booster and Diono Hip are the least expensive at $13 each.

"You don't have to spend a lot of money to get a quality booster seat. Unlike more complicated harness-equipped restraints, a booster is a simple device that doesn't require special features to do its job," Jermakian says.

"Boosters need to elevate the child and guide the lap belt so that it lies flat on the upper thighs and not up against the tummy and position the shoulder belt so that it fits snugly across the middle of the shoulder."

More expensive models sometimes tout enhanced side protection, but there is no clear evidence that this improves safety. Some have LATCH connectors, but, unlike on harness-equipped restraints, they aren't necessary on boosters and serve mostly to prevent seats from sliding around when they aren't occupied. Convenience features such as cupholders and styling also push prices higher for some models.

Booster seats are designed for children who have outgrown harness-equipped restraints. Children ages 4-8 are 45 percent less likely to sustain injuries in crashes if they are in boosters than if they are using safety belts alone. Children should ride in boosters until a lap and shoulder belt fits correctly by itself. For some kids, that doesn't happen until age 12 or so.

IIHS began its booster rating program after finding that many seats didn't consistently provide kids good belt fit. In the first booster ratings, only a quarter of the seats evaluated earned the Best Bet designation.

Ensuring that children are in the right kind of child restraint for their age and size is a critical step for reducing highway crash deaths, which have been on the rise. Deaths of children ages 4 to 8 — the most common ages for booster users — rose to 13.8 per million children in 2016 from 11.5 in 2012. Deaths of children ages 9 to 12, many of whom still need boosters, rose to 12.4 per million children in 2016, compared with 9.7 in 2012.

New booster models for 2017
There are 16 new models for 2017, including 13 Best Bet boosters and 3 Check Fit.

IIHS best bet booster logo

Best Bets: These boosters provide good belt fit for typical 4 to 8 year-olds in almost any car, minivan or SUV.

  • Chicco GoFit (backless)
  • Cosco Finale (highback)
  • Cosco Finale DX (highback)
  • Diono Monterey XT (backless mode)
  • Diono Monterey XT (highback mode)
  • Evenflo Spectrum (backless mode)
  • Evenflo Spectrum (highback mode)
  • Graco Wayz (backless mode)
  • Graco Wayz (highback mode)
  • Maxi-Cosi RodiFix (highback)
  • Nuna AACE (backless mode)
  • Nuna AACE (highback mode)
  • Peg Perego Viaggio Shuttle (backless)

Check Fit: These boosters have varied results depending on child size and vehicle model.

  • Harmony Folding Travel Booster (highback)
  • Kiddy Cruiser 3 (highback)
  • Ride Safer Delighter Booster (backless)

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