My 2-year-old grandson is able to unlatch all the belts holding him in on his car seat. I don't believe he is the only one able to do this. Does anyone know of something that can be purchased to cover the latches, like a sheath or something, or how you were able to correct this. It is impossible to drive anywhere alone with him, there has to be someone in the back seat to make sure he doesn't get out of the seat. Thank you for any assistance you can provide. Thank you.
From: Donna, Georgetown
Hi Donna --
That is one strong grandson you've got! In fact, it's so rare for a toddler to be able to generate the pressure it takes to manipulate these latches that children's car seat expert Ben Hoffman suggests there is something wrong with the buckles, or that he's in the wrong kind of car seat.
Hoffman, a member of the American Academy of Pediatrics' committee on injury, violence & poison prevention, says it takes 12 to 15 pounds of pressure to open the buckles on a properly installed car seat, "more than the typical 2-year-old can generate."
Is it possible your grandson is in booster seat rather than a 5-point harness? The 5-point harness is the only appropriate car seat for a 2-year-old. If he's physically big enough for a booster seat (and too big for a rear- or forward-facing seat), it is possible he could manage to manipulate the latches.
In either case, Hoffman suggests getting the current car seat inspected. The National Highway Traffic and Safety Association has a Child Safety Seat Inspection Locator which will tell you where you can go in your zip code to find an inspector. So does seatcheck.org.
With an older child who learns to manipulate the latches on a booster seat, a parent's recourse is zero-tolerance. "You need to pull the car over and say simply, 'This car cannot move unless your seat belt is latched,'" Hoffman said. A 4-year-old is able to understand the consequences and when parents literally stop the car or refuse to start, the behavior typically disappears quickly. But a 2-year-old is not cognitively able to understand those consequences.
If you have more questions about car seat safety, Hoffman is willing to help. Contact him at Safer New Mexico Now. By the way, according to that organization, three out of four children's car seats are improperly installed. Yikes!
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