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Shield Booster Discussion

Original Post:

...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 much longer...


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.


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 harness."

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 conditions.

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.



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