Dealing with child seat escape artists

At some point most kids learn how to get out of their car seat. Not only is this extremely dangerous in a crash but it’s also highly distracting to the driver and can increase the risk of crashing.

Here are some tips that might prevent your child becoming unrestrained while on the move.

Remember, it’s the driver’s responsibility to ensure all occupants are correctly restrained.

Check the fit

Firstly, ensure the harness is properly fitted and adjusted.

Check the following:

  • Is the child restraint  appropriate for the child’s size and age?
  • Are the harness straps correctly adjusted? Tip: You should be able to just fit two fingers between the child and the straps.
  • Is the harness set at the correct height for the child? Tip: The restraint’s instruction book will explain how to determine this.
  • If the child can slide the harness straps off their shoulder or slip their arms out, consider if the harness padding can be removed to reduce some of the free play in the straps.
  • Consider the child’s clothing type and adjust the straps accordingly. Tip: This is often necessary as seasons and clothing needs change. Also be mindful if the child is wearing puffy clothing. Whilst the harness may appear snug, a puffy jacket will compress. 

Educate and lead by example

Use age appropriate language to explain to the child that for their safety it’s important for them to stay in their car seat.

More importantly, ensure that you and other drivers/passengers are also always correctly restrained.

Children in harnesses

For children who have worked out how to unlatch the harness release, try sticking the hook side of a Velcro dot on the button. The sharp feeling of the Velcro may discourage the child from trying to push the button.

You could also consider adding a chest clip to the harnesses to make it more difficult for the child to remove. Note however that testing has shown there to be a small chance of some contact between the clip and the child’s face in a frontal crash, though this is probably preferable to having the child partially unrestrained.

Make travelling safely a positive topic

Before you set off on every drive, do a friendly family seat belt check

  • Ask if everyone is buckled up.
  • Have everyone (including the adults and bigger kids) respond that they’re buckled up and ready to go.
  • Do a glance over to check that everyone is in fact buckled up safely before you start driving.
    Tip: RACQ teaches the ‘Slip, Clip, Clap’ method, which is a fun way to get kids to put their own seatbelts on. They slip the seatbelt over their shoulder, clip it in and give the driver a clap to signal that they're ready to go. It can aid in preventing kids from taking off their own seatbelt because they take some ownership over putting their own belt on.
  • Reward children for staying in their restraint. This can be as simple as letting them pick a song to play or stopping at a local park on the way home.

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