Skip to Content

Bad habits

Bad habits

In certain instances, we act in a habitual manner that, without realizing is a danger to children’s safety. In this section you will find some tips to help you to know how to behave correctly during every trip.

Let’s get started?

1. Habits related to traffic education for children and adults

Show all

We should be aware that placing a child in a suitable child restraint system but failing to fasten the harness or seat belt is the same as if they were not in a child seat at all. In the event of sharp braking or a crash, the child car seat will not be able to hold the child in place and the consequences could be extremely serious and just as serious as if they were not secured in a seat at all. 

The harness should be positioned according to the manufacturer's instructions. Firstly we should adjust it to the right height. The upper belts of the harness should be at the height of the child's shoulders. We must also check that the harnesses have not been folded over or twisted. Lastly we should ensure the harness fits snugly. Remember that a tight harness is a safe harness. We should only be able to insert a two-finger space between the belt and the child's body.

We also need to check that the harness is not too small for the child. It is worth noting that child car seats usually offer a number of different ways to position the harnesses. Once all possible adjustable positions have been used it is time to change the seat for a larger one.

Harnesses are usually a feature of child car seats in groups 0, 0+ and I. In the case of larger child car seats, children can be secured with the seat belt, which must be routed through the slots or guides indicated by the manufacturer. Here we show you what a properly positioned seat belt should look like.

This is one of the worst mistakes you can make. In order to distract the child, we might give them a mobile phone, a Tablet or a toy in order to make the journey more pleasant for them. However, we should bear in mind that this object can fly out of their hands in the event of a strong braking or accident. We must never forget that any object can increase its weight by forty times if we are braking at 50 km/h. For example, a console weighing only 218 grams could reach a weight of up to 7.8 kg if we apply the brakes or have an accident at 50 km/h. If we apply the brakes at 90 km, the weight would become 25 kg. In the event of a 560 g Tablet, its weight could reach up to 23 kg if we are braking at 50 km/h and up to 75 kg if we apply the brakes at 90 km/h.

This can happen with electronic devices, toys or any other unsecured item inside the car. 

Letting children travel in a child restraint system (CRS) without being properly secured is one of the biggest mistake you can make, since there will be nothing holding them in place in an accident. 

It is important to ensure that they understand that they must travel in their child seat with the harness fastened. In fact, if the child does manage to unbuckle the harness you should stop the vehicle until they are fastened back up in their seat again. 

Bear in mind that it is not enough for the harness to be merely well-secured. It must be properly fastened. Many children tend to pull their arms out of their harness. Allowing them to do so can seriously affect the young child's safety and could even lead to the child coming out of the seat completely. The harnesses must be correctly adjusted to the child's body. In fact, we should only be able to fit two adult fingers between the harness and the child's body. This way the system will be at its most effective when needed. 

It is therefore not a good idea to use anti-escape systems (only in extreme cases), since they can interfere with the harnesses clasps and make it more difficult to remove the child in an accident. We should bear in mind that many child restraint systems also have additional fastening features to make sure that the child does not unbuckle themselves.  

Many children tend to pull their arms out of their harness. Allowing them to do so can seriously affect the young child's safety and could even lead to the child coming out of the seat completely.

The harnesses must be correctly adjusted to the child's body. We recommend: Here are the reasons why a tight harness is a safe harness. In fact, we should only be able to fit two adult fingers between the harness and the child's body. This way the system will be at its most effective when needed. 

The option of using anti escape or anti evasion systems  must be considered only in extreme cases when it is not possible to keep the minor in the desired safety position and they are not, in principal, advisable. We should bear in mind that many child restraint systems also have additional fastening features to make sure that the child does not unbuckle themselves. 

It is crucial not to interfere with the harness buckle, given that in an accident it can hamper the process of getting the child out of the seat. Furthermore, we should not alter any other part of the child seat since everything is designed to function in the event of an accident and to offer the maximum protection possible. 

Sometimes adults travel with a child held in their arms. This happens more frequently than it should and is very dangerous since if an adult is wearing a seatbelt when the car brakes hard or is involved in an accident, the child will be thrown against the dashboard or the windscreen. If the adult were not wearing a seatbelt they would crush the child with a force of 1000kgs.

Children MUST always travel in their car seat, without exceptions! There are no excuses such as “it’s ok they are by my side” or “we are only going slowly”…. Don’t allow the child to complain. We must educate them to understand that their car seat is not optional. If they learn this from an early age, they will assume it’s the most normal thing in the world. It is also an investment in their future safety and hopefully they will become responsible adults where road safety is concerned and always use their seatbelt. 

The majority of traffic accidents happen close to home. What is more, a collision at only 50km/hr. can be fatal to an adult if not using a seatbelt or a child that isn’t using a child safety seat.

Children learn by mimicking what they see and we cannot teach them to use a car seat if we don’t use our seatbelt. If we don’t use it we are sending a message to our children that “using a child car seat or a seatbelt is not that important”.

An adult that is not wearing a seatbelt can crush a child in a collision: an adult weighing 75 kilos can see there weight in a crash multiplied up to more than 1000kgs.

Children, even the smallest of them are aware of all our gestures and habits so as well as seatbelts we must set a good example with regard to traffic lights and road signs, as in all of our behavior at the wheel. Behave, as you would wish them to in the future where safety is concerned.

2. Habits associated to choosing a car seat.

Show all

When purchasing a child restraint system, it is preferable to choose a rear-facing child car seat. At Fundación MAPFRE we recommend that children travel in this way until they are at least 4 years old and even older if possible, providing the child's particular physical characteristics allow for it. 

Rear-facing child car seats protect their neck, spine and head above all (they can prevent up to 80% of serious injuries in the event of a crash) and are particularly appropriate for children with certain special needs, such as underweight children or those with muscular problems.

For this reason, it is important for newborn babies and babies in general to travel in a rear-facing position since they have large heads that are disproportional to the size of their bodies and they usually have little muscle strength and resistance. In fact, the smallest groups such as 0 and 0+ are rear-facing (R44/04). In the case of child car seats approved under R-129 (i-Size) it is compulsory for the child to travel in this position until they are 15 months old. 

In fact, the American Academy of Pediatrics has changed its recommendations in this regard. They previously advised that children should be traveling in a rear-facing position until they reach 2 years old but they now insist on the importance of children traveling facing this way for as long as possible.

This infographic explains the key features of a rear-facing CRS.

Firstly, we should bear in mind that child restraint systems have an ‘expiry date’, meaning they cannot be used indefinitely. 

The manufacturers of these seats recommend using the CRS for no more than 6 years, therefore it is not a good idea to use them past this time. 

During these 6 years the child car seat is likely to be used on a daily basis by young children and under varying weather conditions (intense heat in summer and considerable cold in winter). This can affect the various components of the seat and the plastic can expand and contract and potentially lose its original shape. The seat deteriorates over time. We should also bear in mind any possible sharp braking or acceleration and of course how the seat was treated in general.

The date of manufacture or maximum use-by date can be found on a sticker which is usually on the side or back of the child car seat. The approval label also indicates manufacturing details such as the week and year. Once this time has elapsed, the manufacturers cannot guarantee that the CRS will fulfill all its safety specifications and therefore we should no longer be using it. 

When choosing a child restraint system, one factor to take into account is, undoubtedly, the type of vehicle in which it is going to be installed. We should bear in mind that often we are talking about i-Size (the R-129 approval standard) seats that are larger and cannot consequently be installed in all vehicles. Generally speaking, child car seat manufacturers usually offer a list which indicates in which cars your CRS can be safely installed. Likewise, the vehicle's manual will indicate if the seats are i-Size.

Another factor is the ISOFIX anchors. Not all vehicles have these anchors, especially older vehicles. If the car is not equipped with these anchors, we will have no choice but to rule out ISOFIX child car seats. Learn about the advantages of this system.

In addition, we should take into account that this type of child car seat has a support leg or top tether. Cars in which they can be installed usually have a reinforced floor to support these systems. 

We recommend you read the following article:

-How are vehicles adapting to the i-Size standard?

This is undoubtedly one of the biggest errors we can make when choosing a child restraint system, especially if we are dealing with children under 4 years old. 

Rear-facing child seats guarantee greater protection for the head, neck and spine,, which are the most vulnerable areas of the child. In rear-facing child car seats the head, neck and back are aligned with the backrest and the impact forces are absorbed by the seat meaning that the pressures exerted on the chest and stomach are reduced. Furthermore, we should be aware that they can prevent 80% of serious injuries in an accident and that they are especially designed for children with certain special needs such as low body weight children or those with muscular problems. 

Their protection is such that child car seats for newborns and babies are always rear-facing, that is to say, seats in Group 0 / 0+ are rear-facing (approved under the R44/04 standard). In addition, child car seats approved under R-129 (i-Size) require children to travel in this rear-facing position up to 15 months old. 

At Fundación MAPFRE we recommend that the child travels in a rear-facing seat for as long as possible and up to a minimum of 4 years old if the child is able to do so. 

We recommend the following articles:

The child's height and weight are the two key factors to consider in order to choose the most appropriate child restraint system possible. Failing to take this into account is a mistake which could compromise the child's safely. 

If the child car seat is approved under the R44/04 standard the child's weight will be the most important factor. However, if the seat is approved under the R-129 standard it is the child's height which is especially relevant. 

Apart from the fact that these two aspects can help us decide which is the best CRS to purchase, they are also the two factors which can indicate to us when it is time to switch to a seat in a higher group or level. We can tell if the child seat is getting too small for its occupant when the child has exceeded the weight and height limits stipulated by the manufacturer. Above all, we know it is time to change the seat if the child cannot be properly placed in it: You must make sure that their head does not extend beyond the headrest or backrest.

The child's height is now considered to be the most important factor to take into account when assessing whether or not to continue to use the child car seat. European Directive 2003/20/EC establishes that all children under 150 cm tall should be traveling with a restraint system suitable for their weight. This is the height at which the seat belt, in fact designed for adults, correctly secures the child's body.

We offer some recommendations on replacing a child car seat and choosing the best one for your needs

-Find your child seat according to the child's height and weight

Child restraint systems should be duly approved. It is thanks to this approval that the manufacturer can prove that the CRS is able to pass a series of tests with the goal of ensuring minimum safety levels. 

These tests have been agreed upon. In Europe there are currently two approval standards in force: R44/04 and R129 Both standards have been drawn up by The United Nations Economic Commission for Europe.

Under R44/04 child car seats should be able to withstand a frontal collision at 50 km/h, a rear impact test at 30 km/h, tests of the closing buckle of the harness, an analysis of the seat design, a study of the belt or harness...

Furthermore, in the R129 standard, a side impact test is included and an i-size seat is guaranteed to be able to be fitted in any seat of the vehicle which is also 'i-size'. It also encourages the use of rear-facing child car seats up to a minimum of 15 months and the ISOFIX anchors mean there is less risk of incorrect installation. The R-129 standard is slowly substituting R44/04. Meanwhile, both are currently in force. 

To find out if the seat is an approved seat, all you need to do is check the label or the manufacturer's manual. 

Fundación MAPFRE has monitored the consequences of having a non-approved child car seat. This type of system has not undergone tests and therefore does not offer maximum protection and could even lead to serious injuries or fatalities. Find out here why is it so important for child car seats to be approved? 

Some parents change to the next seat group too early, which is dangerous for their children in an accident. The correct order is:

  • Groupo 0:

    Weight: Up to 10 kg

    Approximate age: Up to approximately 9 months

  • Groupo 0+:

    Weight: Up to 13 kg

    Approximate age: Up to approximately 3 or 4 years

  • Groupo I:

    Weight: From 9 to 18 kg

    Approximate age: From 8 months to 3 or 4 years 

  • Groupo II:

    Weight: From 15 to 25 kg

    Approximate age: Approximately, from 3 to 7 years

  • Groupo III:
    Peso: De 22 a 36 kg

    Weight: From 22 to 36 kg

    Approximate age: Approximately, from 6 to 12 years 

Each group is specially designed to protect children as they grow.
Particularly serious is when parents change from a backward facing seat in group 0+, the safest position, to a seat in group I, facing forward. In a frontal collision this can result in serious injury to the still delicate neck and cervical vertebrae of the child. For this reason it is advisable to ensure that your children travel backward facing for as long as possible (so long as the seat allows and hasn’t become too small). Children under one year old, up to 9kgs must ALWAYS and without exception, travel facing backwards. 
In this picture you can see how dangerous it can be to stop using a booster seat and only use the seatbelt: it becomes wrongly adjusted over the soft parts of the child’s body such as the stomach and neck.

It is equally dangerous to wait too long before changing the seat to one in a higher group. If the seat becomes too small it could break in an accident or be unable to provide adequate protection for the child.

It is necessary to change the seat for a bigger one in a higher group when:

1. The weight of the child exceeds the maximum weight for which the seat was approved.

2. The child’s head remains above the back of the seat.

3. The sides of the seat become too tight.

Remember: if the seat’s harness can no longer withstand the energy of an impact it could break leaving the child unsupported.

You can only use a second hand or used seat if it fulfills the following criteria: 

  • The seat has not been involved in an accident that may have caused damage to it. There are no obvious signs of damage such as cracks or broken parts. Sometimes, damage cannot be seen by simply looking at the seat, but it could still have imperceptible cracks that could cause the seat to break in an accident. 
  • There should be no obvious signs of wear and tear: a worn harness, damaged or rusty buckles could cause it to open in an accident. 
  • The seat should have all of it’s parts. Using a child seat that doesn’t have all the parts could be dangerous. It can be just as expensive to replace the missing pieces as buying a new seat. 
  • The seat should have the original instruction manual; it is essential that you refer to to ensure correct installation. 
  • It is also recommended that the seat is not more than 6 years old since the materials from which it is made can “age” and become fragile or brittle.

Remember: Find out about the history of the seat and inspect it well.

One of the factors we should be taking into account when choosing a child restraint system is its ergonomics. The child should be comfortable in the child seat. Considering they will be spending a lot of time in the seat they should be traveling safely as well as comfortably. 

This is why we recommend that the child tries out the restraint system before you purchase it. It is important that he or she can sit down in it and tell you whether or not they are comfortable. 

The CRS should not cause the child discomfort. It should not have any parts that could stick into or press against the child. It should also allow for breathability and comfort. 

We should remember that children traveling in a rear-facing position do not have to be uncomfortable while doing so. They travel this way from birth and it is the safest position for them. 

However, child car seats are not designed for children to spend hours and hours seated in them, especially the egg shape seats. For this reason, despite the seat's ergonomic features, we recommend stopping every hour and a half on long journeys so that the child can stretch their legs and change position.

3. Habits when installing a child seat in a vehicle

Show all

Firstly, we should bear in mind that a child restraint system should be installed following all of the steps indicated by the manufacturer. We cannot omit any of the steps or install the seat without any of its necessary elements. One of them might well be the Top Tether or Support Leg. If your child car seat includes either of these systems they should always be installed with them. 

We should be aware that both the Top Tether and the Support Leg are anti-tip systems, i.e. their main objective is to prevent the child car seat and the child themselves from tipping over in an accident. Without these systems the child car seat could rotate or tip over. Without the correctly fitted Top Tether, (take a look at the different types here) the seat can easily tip forward between 10 and 15 cm, which is especially dangerous for the child.

The ISOFIX system comprises two anchors that secure the CRS and are positioned on the lower rear part of the child seat. Additionally, there is a third anchor, an upper anchor point for securing the upper part of the child seat's backrest (Top Tether) or a Support Leg. We should not forget that a seat belt is not an anti-rotation device. 

Find more information here on Top Tether, Support Leg and Lower Tether, the main anti-rotation systems for child car seats. 

The child will be getting in and out of the car and will therefore be getting out of the seat a number of times. For the sake of convenience, parents should leave the CRS installed in the vehicle so they don't need to keep putting it in the car and taking it out again.

Since we are using this child car seat regularly, or because we might have accidentally dislodged one of the anchorages, it is a good idea to check before every trip that the child restraint system is well-secured.

Although this will of course vary depending on the installation system in question, we should nevertheless be carrying out a series of checks. We recommend checking that you have correctly anchored the seat with the isofix system  if the child seat is secured with this system. On the other hand, if the seat is fitted with a seat belt you should be making sure that the seat belt has been routed correctly, that there are no folds in the belt and that it fits tightly. 

We should also be checking that the Top Tether and/or the support leg have been properly installed. 

This only takes a few seconds and is so important in terms of uncovering any possible errors in installation. 

Carefully checking the seat can prevent situations such as the following one, in which a child falls out of the car in the child seat because it was not properly secured.

The safest place for children to travel with their child restraint system has been demonstrated to be on the rear seats. In fact, European legislation advocates for this. In Spain, young children who are 135 cm tall or less must travel on the rear seats in vehicles of up to nine seats. 

As set out in the legislation, there are only three reasons for placing the child with a child car seat on the front passenger seat:

  • If the vehicle does not have any rear seats.
  • If all the rear seats are already occupied by other children in their respective child restraints.
  • If child restraint systems cannot be installed in the said seats.

Therefore, wherever possible, children with child seats should travel on the rear seats. 

The best option is to place the child seat on the central rear seat, as it is furthest away from both doors. However, if only some of the rear seats have ISOFIX anchorages and the child seat uses this system, it is advisable to choose one of these places, and if possible the place behind the passenger seat, in order not to make any mistakes when installing the seat.

In this infographic we offer recommendations about which places in the vehicle are the safest when traveling with children with child car seats.

It should be stressed that every manufacturer has designed a child restraint system that takes into account how it should be secured. In fact, each specific child car seat has to pass safety tests and is approved with this securing of the seat in mind. If the user changes the way in which the seat should be secured they are being negligent and could be putting the child's safety at risk. In such cases the CRS will not function or protect the child properly when needed.

We can find car seats for sale that can only be secured with isofix anchors, others that can be installed both ways, either with isofix and its base or with a seat belt and others that can only be secured with a seat belt (take a look at the types of anchorages available) or a combination of both. In order to find out the right way to secure the seat, all you need to do is consult the manufacturer's installation manual. In fact, it is a crucial factor to bear in mind when purchasing a child car seat, since not all cars have isofix anchors and, therefore, we have to reject this option if it is not available in our own car. 

A rear-facing  child car seat provides greater protection for the head, neck and spine. While a child car seat facing forwards can reduce injuries by up to 50%, a rear-facing child seat can reduce them by up to 80%, as stated by the WHO. After learning about the benefits, can any child seat be placed in a rear-facing position although it has not been designed for this?

It is very important that we follow the manufacturer's specifications and instructions in this regard. The child seat has been designed to be positioned in a specific way and if we do not install the seat as indicated we could be compromising the child's safety, whether that be by anchoring it incorrectly, due to the weight, or how we secure it, or because of its design, etc. In fact, child seats are approved according to these specifications, meaning that they have been tested and have passed the minimum safety requirements when following the manufacturer's instructions. For these reasons, we cannot install a child seat in a rear-facing position if it has not been designed to do so. 

For example, a number of child car seats allow the child to travel in a rear-facing position until they reach a certain weight, at which point the child and the CRS should be forward-facing. The main reason is because the seat has not been designed to continue being in a rear-facing position for any longer, i.e. in order to bear more weight in this position. It is vital that we follow the manufacturer's instructions so we do not put our child's safety at risk.

WHEN SHOULD CHILD SEATS BE REAR-FACING?

The manufacturer's themselves usually indicate when this should occur. Seats approved under i-Size guarantee that the child can travel in a rear-facing position until they are 15 months old (R-129). After this, we should consult the specifications of each particular child seat. A CRS in Groups 0+ (from 0 to 13 kg) also usually feature this option (R44/04).

At Fundación MAPFRE we recommend looking for a CRS that allows the child to travel facing the rear for as long as possible and up to a minimum of 4 years old.

SPECIFIC DESIGN

As we have pointed out, rear-facing child restraint systems are designed to guarantee the safety of our youngest children. This is why these seats should not be placed in a forward-facing position, unless the manufacturer's instructions indicate otherwise. 

A rear-facing CRS is recognizable by how it reclines. They are usually more curved or reclined than non rear-facing child seats. In fact, they are usually more reclined than other child seats so that they can fit on the car seat better and adapt to the child's needs.

In addition, when a child reaches a certain weight or height, these types of seats usually have a third anchorage point such as a support leg or top tether. It should be noted that forward-facing child seats may also have this third anchor point, principally to prevent the seat from rotating. Although it is usually positioned somewhat differently. 

Support legs feature more often in rear-facing child seats, although they are also fitted in a forward-facing position. They are fixed to the seat with the car's seat belt or with ISOFIX anchorages. This third anchor point is fitted last and is usually fixed to the child seat itself and the car floor. However, the top tether, which can also be installed, is less common, since with rear-facing child seats the seat belt has to go over the top of the child. 

Lastly, we recommend the article entitled: Why should we use a rear-facing child car seat and up until what point?

The child seat must be firmly fixed to the car seat. If it isn’t then during an accident it could move around inside the car too much, considerably increasing the danger of injury.

According the European investigation project CREST, in 40% of accidents in which a child is hurt, the seatbelt holding the child seat in place was not properly tightened leaving dangerous gaps.

To know whether a seat is firmly fixed, give it a hard shove; the base of it should not move more than a few centimeters from side to side (less than 3 centimeters or two fingers) and the upper part should not move more than the same distance forward.

To avoid it being loose it is important to follow the installation instructions for the seat and tighten the seatbelt that holds the seat in place as much as you can. Some types of seats are equipped with a system to help you tighten the seatbelt.

Remember: The new ISOFIX installation system eliminates any gaps when you install the child seat in a vehicle. This makes it a highly recommended system that helps improve child protection.

This error can be very dangerous causing the seat to come loose or break in a crash. To avoid this danger, most of seats carry an instruction sticker or have colored indicators to show where the seatbelt should go.

Remember: Follow the manufactures instructions to the letter.

It is recommended that the backrest is midway between vertical and horizontal. If the child’s back is too upright, particularly in very small babies, the head can fall to the sides or forward onto the chest and hinder breathing.

The other extreme is if the back is too flat, the seat doesn’t function properly in a head -on collision and inertia causes the baby to slip forward towards the upper part of the seat.

Some seats make it possible to regulate the angle between 30º and 45º from vertical. The smallest babies begin at 45º and as they grow you change to angle until you reach 30º. Always consult the instruction manual to establish the correct inclination.

Remember: Follow the manufacture of the child seat’s instructions to the letter.

Booster cushions raise a child up so that they are able to use a 3-point adult seatbelt. They are not designed for use with a 2-point belt as in an accident they do not effectively support the upper part of a child’s body.

Remember: The child would double up around the belt with a very high chance of causing serious injury.

4. Habits when fastening a child into the seat

Show all

When it comes to putting a child in their child car seat we might make the mistake of not fastening the harness. This could happen for any number of reasons, from being in a hurry to drop them off at school or to get to a particular location, or the fact that we are only going to drive a few meters down the road and it isn't worth wasting time fastening the harness. 

Whatever the circumstances, this is a serious mistake which could also lead to the traffic authorities immobilizing our vehicle, as established in the current Spanish Traffic and Road Safety Act.  If the harnesses are unfastened the child is just as unprotected as if they were not in a child seat at all.

The proper use of child car seats can reduce children's deaths on the roads by 90% and can also lessen the possibility of them suffering serious injuries by 90%.

In order to correctly fasten the harness we should follow three essential steps: check that the belts are correctly positioned over their shoulders and legs; make sure that all the belts are perfectly smooth with no folds: adjust the belts so they are tight enough.

Regarding the harness's tension, we should be aware that a snugly fitting harness is a safe harness. Loosely fitting harnesses are less effective harnesses and will put the child in danger in the event of a crash.

It is vitally important to properly secure the CRS to the seat, and to correctly fasten the harnesses to ensure the child's upmost safety. In this video we demonstrate the consequences of failing to correctly fasten the child seat's harnesses.

Securing a child car seat is crucial for the safety of young children when they are traveling in a child restraint system. The child car seat can secure children with harnesses or with a seat belt.
In the case of harnesses, it is important for it to fit tightly. You should only be able to fit two fingers space at most, and the child should not be wearing bulky clothing which could prevent them from being properly secured in the seat. The same thing applies for the seat belt, which should be routed through all the points indicated by the manufacturer in order to be properly secured.
It is also very important to make sure that the harness or seat belt is not twisted.  In order for them to react properly if needed, they should be untwisted. A twisted harness or seat belt distributes the load unevenly and over a greater area of the body. If the straps are hanging loose or are twisted they may not secure the child properly and may even injure them. 
In this respect, we recommend reading the following articles:

In the same way as wearing shoes that are too loose causing injury or pain to the feet, a loose seatbelt can be very dangerous for various reasons: 

  • A loose harness allows forward movement of the child when braking hard or in a head-on collision. 

  • The harness being too slack can allow the child to slide down, causing it to end up too close to the neck.

  • A slack harness can also allow the child to slip out of it ending and up unprotected. .

Another hint is if you can pinch the strap then the seatbelt is not tight enough and could be dangerous. To ensure it isn’t too loose, it is important that the child is not left to fasten the seatbelt or harnesses on his or her own without an adult always being the last person to check that it is fastened correctly.

Remember: The tighter the harness or seatbelt, the better the protection it offers

This type of clothing causes a large gap between the body of the child and the harness and could be dangerous in an accident. On cold days, it is better to warm up the car so you can take off their coat before sitting them in their seat. If it is still a bit too cold then put the coat or a blanket over them.

Remember: A coat is deceiving! In a collision, a thick coat might cause the child to be thrown from the seat.

A lot of child seats allow the adjustment of the height at which the harness straps leave the back of the child seat as the child grows. To do this there are several pairs of slots in the seat back at varying heights.

If babies are travelling in backward facing seats, these straps should come through at the level of their shoulders or just below.

The opposite is true for children travelling forward facing; the straps should come through at shoulder height or just above. In certain forward facing seats the straps should always be in the top slots as these are specially reinforced. 

Remember: Adjust the harness straps following the manufacturers instructions.

Occasionally, the child seat has to be dismantled to wash the upholstery in which case the harness has to be dismantled too. If you don’t pay close attention to how you did it, when you come to put it back together again the harness can become twisted or is not slotted into the correct holes, which when braking hard or in an accident could cause the child to be thrown from the seat.

Remember: Pay attention to how you have dismantled it and keep the instructions at hand.

This is another dangerous but common mistake. The lap or pelvic strap of the seatbelt is designed to support the lower body of the child where it is strongest: just above the hipbones. It is not designed to hold the child using the soft parts of the body such as the abdomen or the “tummy”, which are susceptible to injury.

It is therefore very important that the lap or pelvic strap is placed flat and as low as possible across the upper part of the hips, never across the stomach.

To ensure that it is not too loose and incorrectly positioned it is important that the child doesn’t fasten his or her own seatbelt or harness or at the very least, an adult checks to make sure the seatbelt or harness is properly fastened.

Remember: The lower strap placed across the abdomen carries with it a serious risk of slipping under the seatbelt or harness (something known as submarining).

The booster seat is designed for use together with the 3-point seatbelt. The upper or shoulder strap situated behind the back or under the arm is very dangerous because when braking hard or in a frontal collision, the body of the child will be doubled up over the lower or lap strap (With the upper or shoulder strap behind the back) or around the shoulder strap (if it placed under the arm). In being doubling up the bones and internal organs of the child can suffer serious injury.

Remember: Children should not fasten their own seatbelt. If they are doing it because you think they should learn to, you must check that it is done properly.

Sometimes, even when using an approved booster seat, it is possible for the shoulder strap of the seatbelt to be too close to the neck, even rubbing on the child’s delicate neck. In an accident this can cause serious injury.

In this situation, the solution is to use a booster seat with a backrest, which allows you to situate the shoulder strap further away from the neck of the child. The shoulder strap should pass over the collarbone halfway between the child’s neck and the shoulder.

To avoid it being loose or incorrectly used, it is important that the child doesn’t fasten the seatbelt or harness by his or herself, or at least if they do, it is always checked by an adult to ensure it is properly adjusted and fastened.

Remember: the back of a booster seat that has “wings” or lateral protection improves safety in a lateral accident.

According to a study carried out in 2011, 43% of children take their arms out of the safety straps while on the move. For this reason some parents are tempted to allow them not to use the shoulder straps. A mistake that could result in death according to the laboratory crash tests conducted for this study.

When using the shoulder straps of an infant harness, the upper body of the child is not supported, which in an accident would cause the child to be thrown forward violently and crashing into the interior of the vehicle or another person. All the energy of the crash would be concentrated in the points of contact between the body of the child and the lower straps of the harness, this concentration of energy could cause serious internal injury around the pelvis and the abdomen. 

Remember: Half a harness is worthless.

Back to top