The Comprehensive Guide to Car Seat Safety Part III (Harnessing)

Last updated

See also Part I of this series: Car Seat Selection and Direction, and Part II: Installation.

Car Seat Harnessing

Once the car seat is installed, you will want to secure your child properly using the harness system. In the United States we use “5 Point Harness” systems. This is comprised of a buckle, a chest clip, and the harness (webbing) which contacts the five strongest parts of the body to spread the force of a crash evenly over the child: across the hips (points 1 & 2), over each shoulder (points 3 & 4), and between the legs (point 5).

(photo credit: Saara Moskowitz)
(photo credit: Saara Moskowitz)

 

  1. Properly position the harness on your child.
  • Rear-facing seats – Harness straps should lie flat, not twisted, and be routed through the slotthat is at or below your child’s shoulders.
  • Forward-facing seats – Harness straps should lie flat, not twisted, and be placed through theslot that is at or above your child’s shoulders.

A twisted harness will not distribute weight correctly in a crash and could cause injury. Make sure the harness straps are routed through the correct slot in both the car seat cover and car seat shell, especially after removing the cover for any reason. Often, the harness will accidentally be routed through one slot in the cover but not the corresponding slot in the shell.

  1. Buckle the harness and close the chest clip. Tighten the harness straps and move the chest clip up so the top of the clip lines up at armpit level.
  2. Check to see that the harness is snug by administering the “pinch test”. You should not be able to pinch a horizontal fold in the harness webbing at the child’s collar bone.
Proper harnessing and the “Pinch Test”: (photo credit: Britax Child Safety)

 

Proper harnessing on a convertible seat (photo credit: Nava J.)
Proper harnessing on a convertible seat (photo credit: Nava J.)

You want to make sure nothing comes between your child and the car seat, or the harness straps. This includes BundleMes, buntings, bulky coats, and swaddle blankets. In the next article we will discuss some solutions for winter time. This is a very informative video by Dr. Alisa Baer (“The Car Seat Lady”) on what every parent should know before buckling his or her new baby into a car seat:

Common Harness Errors

  •  Harness too loose or bulky Items under harness
Harness too loose (photo credit: NHTSA)
Harness too loose (photo credit: NHTSA)

 

  • Chest clip not at armpit level
Chest clip too low (photo credit: NHTSA)
Chest clip too low (photo credit: NHTSA)

 

  • Harness twisted
Twisted Harness (photo credit: Sara Adina Baker)
Twisted Harness (photo credit: Sara Adina Baker)

 

  • Buckle unbuckled (but chest clip is closed)
Buckle not buckled Sara Adina Baker
Buckle not buckled (photo credit: Sara Adina Baker)

 

  • Chest clip not closed (but bottom buckle is buckled)
Chest clip not closed (photo credit: Sara Adina Baker)
Chest clip not closed (photo credit: Sara Adina Baker)

 

  •  Harness routed through incorrect slots, or routed through two different slots
  • Harness and seat belt both used to secure the child (this can sometimes be found on a forward facing child in a car seat installed using LATCH or not installed at all)

Tomorrow, Part IV of this series: The Comprehensive Guide to Car Seat Safety Part IV (Harnessing).

comments

Author: Saara Moskowitz

Saara Moskowitz is a Child Passenger Safety Technician (CPST) certified by Safe Kids Worldwide. She lives in New England with husband and daughter. You can contact her with any questions at SaaraCPST@gmail.com.