A common question I get asked is how to stop a child from wriggling out the harness.
This places them in an extremely dangerous position if they were to be involved in a crash. Not to mention how distracting and distressing it is to the driver!
So why is Escaping a car seat such a big deal?
If your child's car seat straps are too loose, or off your child’s shoulders, they could slip their arms out the harness. This could cause them great danger in a crash. They could be thrown forward and hit into the front seat, called submarining, or they could be ejected from their car seat.
This shocking video demonstrates what happens in a crash when the harness is not over the shoulders as they should be:
tips and tricks to stop your Toddler escaping their Car Seat
1. Check the harness height at the shoulders
Your car seat manual will show you how to adjust the harness height. It is useful to check the harness height every time your child outgrows their clothes or shoes. Chances are that the car seat needs adjusting then too!
For rear facing car seats , the harness straps should come from at or just below shoulder level (within an inch). Putting the harnesses too high for a rear-facing car seat causes the child’s body to slide upwards against the car seat in a crash. Straps that are too low allows the straps to slide off the shoulders easily.
For forward-facing car seats , the harness straps should come from at or above shoulder level (within an inch). Crash forces will cause a forward facing child’s body to be thrown forward. Straps that are too high or too low allows extra wriggle room to escape.
Correctly positioned straps most effectively decrease the amount of distance the child will travel when propelled forward and reduce the forces on the child’s spine and shoulders.
2. Tighten the harness every time you put your child in the car seat
It is very important to pull the slack out of the harness from the hip area before pulling the tail to tighten it at the shoulders. Too much slack at the hips can allow children enough room to get their arms out.
The straps should be tight enough so that you cannot pinch the webbing. We call this the "pinch test".
3. Anti-escape device
If the tips above are still not deterring your little escape artist, you may need to invest in an anti-escape device.
Neither are universally approved. Aftermarket products that are not approved by your manufactured are not recommended. However, if your child continues to escape the harness despite it being at the correct height and tightened properly, the Belt Collector or 5-Point Plus may be a safer alternative to an unrestrained child.
It is not safe or recommended to use any other gadgets or devices. Other items used to keep your child harnessed, although widely available, are not crash tested and could cause more harm than good in a crash.
The BeSafe belt collector
The Besafe belt collector is a plastic clip that slides onto the harness, it is legal and crash tested.
It is NOT the same as a chest clip, which is illegal and dangerous on European car seats. It is officially only approved for use on BeSafe car seats.
I have confirmed with BeSafe that the Belt Collector should not be of any danger for the child, as it is designed to break when exposed to certain forces.
The 5-Point Plus
The‘5-Point Plus’ anti-escape device goes behind the child and wraps around the harness where it fastens with Velcro. It blocks the sides of the harness where the child puts their arms through, making escape impossible.
It has already been approved by some brands in the UK, including Maxi Cosi, Bebe Confort and Cossato. Cossato car seats are now issued with the 5 Point Plus as standard. The 5-Point Plus is also not universally approved.
Watch the 5-point pus in action:
Using the above tricks and/or accessories should keep your child safe in their car seat. If you are still having difficulty keeping your child restrained in their car seat, please post on Car Seat Support South Africa for further advice.