Having a child, especially if it is your first, can make you anxious and nervous wondering if you’re caring for them correctly. Obviously, infants cannot look out for themselves, so you are the person responsible for keeping them safe. Baby proofing your home is only the first step. After installing locks on your cabinets, baby gates near your stairs, and securing any loose items, you may also find yourself wondering how to protect your infant outside of your home. One step towards baby safety outside your home is inside your car.
Importance of Car Seats
Federal law in the United States requires children under 60 pounds to be protected by a car seat or booster seat when traveling in a car. Seat belts simply are not enough to protect small children because of their size. Anything can happen during a car ride – even a quick trip down the street, so it is of the utmost importance to always put your child in a car seat, no matter how short or long your trip will be.
Car Seat Construction
Most modern car seats consist of tether straps, attachment straps, cushioning, a sitting area, and most importantly a five-point harness. The five-point harness is what keeps your child safely restrained in case of a collision. So, how does a five-point harness keep your child safer than a regular seatbelt?
A five-point harness is the seat belt portion of a child’s car seat. It is responsible for holding your child in their seat. Five-points refers to the number of points (places) where the seat is attached to the harness. There are two connections at the shoulders, two at the hips, and one between the legs. This is the preferred harness for most modern baby seats.
Some car seat companies still use a 3-point harness (one connection at each shoulder, and a third between the legs) but these seats are mostly seen in distribution programs, such as those at hospitals and aid agencies, if at all. These are considered less safe than five-point harnesses and should be avoided if possible.
The chest clip-on five-point harness is different from those on three-point harnesses. The chest clip on a three-point harness is typically paperclip style and simply slides over one harness and is attached to the other, to keep the two straps together. On a five-point harness, the chest clip consists of two pieces that buckle together at the center.
Adjusting the Straps
A five-point harness will not work the way it should if it is not properly fitted. If you are using the car seat in its rear facing orientation, it is essential that the shoulder strap sits at, or below, your child’s shoulders. If you are using the car seat in the front facing position, make sure that the straps sit at, or above, your child’s shoulders. To adjust the straps, you may need to locate the splitter plate behind the seat and remove the straps from it in order to put them in the proper harness slot. Other harnesses offer a simpler solution, allowing you to adjust the straps with the push of a button on the sliding of a bar.
It is also essential that each of the five straps sit flat against your child. Make sure that they are not twisted or tangled. The straps can easily get tangled, especially when you take your child out, or put them back into the car.
When tightening the harness, make sure that it is tight enough against your child that you can not pinch together any part of the webbing. It is also essential that the lower part of the harness fits as closely to your child’s body as possible.
Other Five Point Harnesses
Five-point harnesses are the best way to buckle your child safely into any moving vehicle. If you are worried about your child’s safety, even when their harness is properly adjusted, keep in mind that race car drivers also use five-point harnesses. It might help ease your mind to know that even at their high speed of travel, they are rarely seriously injured.
There is a very good reason to use five-point harnesses, and that is the fact that they were designed with safety in mind. In fact, they are so safe, that NASCAR requires all their drivers to use this style of harness.