Child Car Seats

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Children Undoing Their Harness

Some children go through a phase of slipping out of the child seat harness, or releasing the buckle, during journeys. This is extremely worrying for parents and very frustrating. Once a child has learnt how to do this, it is very difficult to stop them. The good news is that it usually seems to be a phase which they grow out of.

Although it is possible to buy 'anti-tampering' devices to stop children undoing the buckle on their harness, RoSPA does not recommend any device which affects the working of a seat belt, a harness or a buckle. It may reduce the effectiveness of the seat belt or harness in a crash (causing more injuries to the child), and could also be difficult to undo in an emergency.

The following points may help to stop your child undoing their harness:

  • Ensure the child knows that their harness keeps them safe from harm
  • Depending on the age of the child, make 'doing up the belt' into a chant or song
  • Show the child that you wear your seat belt - perhaps you can both sing or chant as you are doing up your own belt too
  • Do not start the engine until you are sure that the child is secure in their harness and child seat AND that your seat belt is correctly fastened (perhaps this could be part of a game also - ask the child if everyone is belted up and whether it's OK to drive off)
  • If possible (e.g. on a leisure trip, or a trip to friends), tell the child that you cannot take them if their harness is not done up - as you don't want any harm to come to them
  • Ideally, have an adult sit with them in the back.
  • Take some toys or games they are able to play with in the car, but try to avoid heavy ones.
  • If the child undoes the harness during the journey, pull over as soon as it is safe to do so and repeat that the harness must be done up to save them from being hurt. Do not start again until they are back in their harness.
  • If the child repeatedly unfastens the harness because they are restless and bored, distract them by 'I-Spy' and other word games or songs, with which they can in (provided this does not distract you while driving).
  • Please remember that it is most important for the driver NOT to be distracted by these activities

The most important thing to remember is to be consistent.

Always insist that your child is secure in their child car seat, with the harness fastened.

Do not give in by letting the child travel without being safe and secure. This would be illegal but, more importantly, would put your child at risk of serious injury or death if your vehicle is involved in a crash. It will also be more difficult to insist that the child wears their seatbelt next time they are in the car.