Car seats have continually undergone transformations over the last decades to optimize safety. Due to a large public education push, most parents know how to install them in the car, yet many don’t know how to use the 5-point harness system correctly.
As a child accident attorney, I have seen firsthand the ramifications of being in an accident when a child wasn’t properly buckled. Just about all car seats manufactured are equipped with the 5-point system, so it’s essential that parents know the do’s and don’ts of using these straps to keep children safe.
Properly Fitting Your Child In The Car Seat
- Know where to place the shoulder straps. Typically, car seats have several slots for the shoulder straps to come through so the car seat can grow with your child, but parents often don’t adjust them correctly. If a child is in a rear-facing seat, the straps should come through at or just below their shoulders. In a forward-facing seat, use the slot at or just above shoulder level.
- Next, you will need to connect the straps at the child’s chest. This connection slides up and down, and it’s important to have it placed correctly. It should line up with the child’s armpit, not up by the neck, or down by the abdomen.
- Then, after you finish buckling the straps at the point between the legs, check for the right fit. A harness system that is too loose can cause injury in a crash. If you can pinch the strap and any of it folds over on itself, it needs tightening.
- Lastly, make sure children are not wearing bulky clothes while in a car seat. In an accident, warm coats and sweatshirts can compress, leaving too much space between the child and the straps. Remove heavy clothing, buckle the child, and then add protection from the cold. Some parents choose to simply cover children with blankets, while others put the child’s coat on backwards after buckling the car seat.
All parents want to keep children safe, so use these instructions for securing a 5 point harness. In addition, many booster seats have the option of using the harness or the regular seat belt. Using the regular seat belt before a child is big enough can result in unnecessary injuries. Instructions vary between manufacturers, so read your manual and use the 5 point system as long as possible. If you have more questions about child safety issues, contact us.