...what is going on now with shield boosters and
the AAP? Rumor I heard was that they weren't
recommending them and cosco was going to finally stop making them. I noticed
that all the big box stores here are clearancing them like they won't be around
I wanted to clear up the rumor reported about
Cosco's Grand Explorer.
Cosco has asked AAP to review its recommendation
based on extensive documentation which we have provided that the Grand Explorer
performs as well as or better than any other type of seat. This documentation
includes rollover testing and head excursion data. Although we have repeatedly
requested it, Cosco has never been provided with any research showing the Grand
Explorer presents problems. We would be happy to provide our documentation to
anyone who would like it; please email me you mailing address.
VERY GOOD REPLY:
These comments regarding shield boosters may be
lengthy, but they include a relatively complete history of recommendations
regarding the use of shield boosters. All references are available from me if
anyone wants the documentary back-up.
According to my research, the
American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) first
recommended against using booster seats for children weighing less than 40
pounds in 1989. In January, 1989, the National
Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) urged parents to keep children in
convertible seats until they weighed 40 pounds and recommended that a shield
booster should ONLY be used with lap belts (Cosco, of course, markets the Grand
Explorer for use with lap/shoulder belts). Also beginning in 1989, SafeRideNews
recommended shield boosters only for children "who have outgrown conventional
safety seats at about four years or 40 pounds." These experienced, expert child
advocates have maintained these recommendations ever since.
In July, 1991, NHTSA stated that "It is
important that children smaller than 40 lbs. or 40 inches remain in a
convertible seat. The convertible seat provides better protection for small
children than does a booster seat." In March, 1992, NHTSA stated in its Child
Passenger Safety Resource Manual that using a shield booster for a child
weighing under 40 pounds was actually MISUSE! In July, 1992, Carol Dingledy from
Cosco wrote NHTSA and acknowledged that Cosco was aware that "many organizations
recommend that auto booster seats be used only by children over 40 pounds." In
August, 1991, Safety Belt Safe (SBS USA) recommended that, "especially with small shield
boosters, SBS USA recommends waiting until your child is over 4 years of age,
over 40 lbs in weight, and is so tall that the child's head and ears are
emerging from the top of the conventional safety seat." To my knowledge,
Stephanie Tombrello (director of SBS USA) has maintained this position ever since.
In August, 1993, National Safe Kids recommended
boosters only for children weighing between 40 and 60 pounds.
In May, 1995, Transport Canada published a report
of real world testing it had conducted which proved that small shield boosters
increased the chances of ejection in rollover crashes. The purpose of the
testing was to determine if the 40 lb. weight minimum in CMVSS 213 should remain
at 40 pounds for boosters. They left the weight minimum alone. The report
concluded that: "A child less than 39.6 lbs has a high risk of being ejected
from an abdominal shield booster in a roll-over event."
In 1995, NHTSA again stated that a shield
booster should only be used with a lap belt. It also stated that "if your car
has combination lap and shoulder belts, and the shield is detachable, the
booster base should be used alone." (Again contrary to what Cosco recommends).
In 1996, AAP issued a formal Policy Statement
recommending that "a booster seat should be used when the child has outgrown a
convertible seat but is too small to fit properly in a vehicle safety belt." It
further stated that a belt positioning booster (BPB) is preferable to a shield booster, which should only
be used with lap belts.
In 1997, a paper was presented at the Child
Occupant Protection 2nd Symposium Proceedings in Orlando, Florida. It was
published by Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE) and peer reviewed by numerous industry experts prior to
publication. After analyzing numerous real world crashes involving shield
boosters, it concluded that such seats are "less desirable than convertible
child restraints for children 20-40 lbs." It also recommended that "every effort
should be made to inform the public that these devices provide inadequate crash
protection and that there are superior alternatives."
In 1998, Riley Hospital in Indianapolis
published recommendations stating that convertible seats should be used for
children up to 40 pounds.
In 1999, General Motors and the American Medical Association (AMA) published recommendations stating that any child under 40
pounds should remain in a forward facing restraint and over 40 in a BPB. There
was no mention of the shield booster for any weight at all; Cosco's Grand
Explorer was the only seat on the market at the time.
In 1999, the U.S. government's department of
Health and Human Services confirmed that "shield boosters . . . do not provide
as much upper body protection" as other seats and it repeated AAP's
recommendation that "shield boosters not be used for children weighing <40 lbs,
even if they are labeled for use at a lower weight. Shield boosters should only
be used with their shields removed so they can function as belt-positioning
booster seats . . .." At the time, ONLY Cosco/Dorel had a seat "labeled for use
at a lower weight" available in the marketplace.
In 1999, Drs. Winston and Durbin (who are
running the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP) studies in Philadelphia -- a study that Cosco/Dorel has held
out as "the most comprehensive study of actual crashes" ever made) published an
article wherein they stated that "children should remain in CSS until they are
at least 4 years old and weigh 18 kg. (39.6 lb.s), at which point they should be
placed in booster seats." Importantly, these two eminently qualified experts
stated "shield boosters are no longer recommended because they do not provide
enough upper body protection and have a risk of ejection from the shield booster
in rollover crash(es)."
In June, 2000, NHTSA published the "Parent's
Guide to Booster Seats." It stated, in no uncertain terms, that only children
weighing over 40 pounds should use booster seats. A picture of the Grand
Explorer was shown with the "NO" sign (a circle with a line through it) in the
brochure. Next to the picture of the Grand Explorer, it said "NHTSA and the
American Academy of Pediatrics recommend children over one year and between 20
to 40 pounds be restrained in a forward-facing child safety seat, with full
In July, 2000, Kathy Weber stated in a published
paper, unequivocally, that "shield boosters are no longer considered appropriate
crash protection for children. Crash investigations have documented ejections,
excessive excursions, and shield related injuries in rollover, side, and frontal
crashes, resulting in severe head, spinal, abdominal and extremity issues."
Bill Hall's excellent
HSRC group has, for many
years, recommended that children not be moved into booster seats until they
reach 40 lbs. The HSRC web site stated "There are no circumstances where best
practice recommends the use of a shield booster in a vehicle seating position
that has a lap/shoulder belt combination."
In 12/2000, the CHOP group (again, the group
Cosco admits is and has been conducting the "most comprehensive study of actual
crashes" ever made i.e. NOT just a few laboratory sled tests!!)) said that
"children weighing 40 lbs. or less should remain in this restraint system
(convertible) until they reach maximum height/weight limits . ..."
Last summer, Toys "R" Us saw the writing on the
wall and stopped selling the Grand Explorer. It is only a matter of time before
the rest of the big retailers follow suit. While Cosco/Dorel claims the G/E
performs adequately in sled tests (forward facing only, very limited dummy
weights, massive belt tension, tightly controlled parameters, etc.), we all know
that the sled tests have NO comparison to the real world and that Cosco's
installation is not even close to what real world moms and dads do countless
times every day. In the real world, as Ms. Weber stated, the shield booster
simply is "no longer considered appropriate crash protection for children."
In sum, we have NHTSA, AAP, CDC, AMA, HSRC, Drs.
Durbin and Winston, SBS, SafeRideNews and many others standing firm in published
documentation on the 40 pound/shield booster issues, with decades of real world
observations, countless fit checks and real crash experiences. And, I might add,
none of these child advocates make any money selling child restraints. The ONLY
group in the entire world safety community that I know of with a contrary voice
is Cosco/Dorel (which does not, to my knowledge, have any certified CPS techs on
staff and has never taken any training), and which defends its continuing sales
of the G/E with an accident history that it says is "excellent." One thing to
keep in mind when considering Cosco's CLAIMED "accident history" is that the
very same Cosco just got hit with the biggest fine in U.S. history by the CPSC
for NOT REPORTING claims and accident reports to the government (involving
children) that it was legally required to report. And it was hit with a similar
fine a few years earlier for the same reasons. Draw your own conclusions from
that, as well as the fact that Cosco has no mandatory reporting obligations to
any of us . . .
As an aside, I should point out that I am
attorney involved in child seat litigation and that I have a case pending
against Cosco involving the Grand Explorer. My young client weighed less than 40
pounds and was properly restrained in the right rear seat (lap/shoulder) in his
G/E when the car was hit on the left side at less than 20 mph. He was ejected
from the seat and from the vehicle, along with the G/E shield, and will be a
ventilator dependent quadriplegic for the rest of his life. His grandmother, who
was driving and took most of the impact forces into her hip and chest, sustained
no permanently disabling injuries. My client should be playing with his friends
at recess instead of laying in a bed with a machine breathing for him, and he
would be if he had been in a convertible seat. I wonder if Cosco is including
this claim in its "excellent" accident history . . .
Posted by Doug Gentile.
Reply from Deborah
Stewart (Safe Ride News):
Hello everyone, Regarding the Cosco Grand
Explorer, Safe Ride News has prepared and will publish an article on this issue
in the next edition (Sept./Oct). Cosco has asked us to change our
recommendations, but we do not intend to do so. Doug Gentile's message is very
thorough. There is a lot more to safe performance than can be measured by tests.
There are studies in the research literature that document a number of cases
that are quite convincing.
No one is saying that the GE doesn't meet the
federal standards, only that it is not as effective a restraint device as a CR
with shoulder harness. Giving the options, the harness seat would contain and
restraint the occupant more effectively under a variety of real-world
One should keep in mind that there are a number
of other shield boosters that were on the market earlier in the 1990s and are
still in use. Some are labeled for children as small as 20 lb. and most go up to
60 pounds. At the time they were made, FMVSS 213 did not include testing with
the 6-year dummy at that time. SRN and other organizations did recommend shield
boosters for over 40 lb., if the vehicle had only lap belts. Once the 6-year
dummy was required as part of standard tests, none of the shield boosters could
pass the head excursion requirements. So now the recommendations against shield
boosters must apply to all size children.