Correct Use of the Five-Point harness in a Child Convertible Car Seat
Okay, I would like to first start out by saying that my knowledge on the subject comes from research, and having used various car seats over the years with my children. If you are ever in doubt about something, it is best to contact the manufacturer of your child convertible car seat.
One of the stages in a convertible car seat usually involves using a five-point harness to strap your child in. the five-point harness is able to spread crash forces over a wider area, and over the stronger parts of the body. The safety of a five-point harness has been known for years. That is why racecar drivers and fighter pilots use them exclusively. In fact we would all be safer strapped in with a five-point harness.
Unfortunately many children are not strapped in correctly, which can lead to serious injuries during a crash that would have been prevented from a properly used harness. One thing to look at is where the shoulder straps are. If the child is rear facing, the straps should be at or below the shoulders. If the child is front facing, the straps should be at or above the shoulders. This does not mean put the straps at the highest slot because you are to lazy to adjust it in the future. As soon as your child’s shoulders are above the slot, move the harness straps up to the next slot. The same for rear facing, as soon as your child’s shoulders reach the slot, or are a little above it, move the harness straps up.
Do not use anything except what has been provided by the child convertible car seat manufacturer to cushion or hold the child in place. Extra padding around and under your child will give in a crash. The five-point harness will not be able to work properly in this case and your child may fly out of the seat like a little rocket. For me, that is not a pretty picture at all. This goes for heavy winter coats as well. With a coat on, there is too much padding between your child and the harness and the harness cannot be tightened correctly.
After your child is in, make sure the harness is properly snug. One way, and what seems to be accepted as the best way to check for the proper tightness of a five-point harness is the pinch test. Where the harness crosses over the shoulder, pinch it in the top to bottom direction. Did you pinch some? If you did, the harness is to loose. You should not be able to pinch the harness. A properly tightened harness will hold your child snug in to their child convertible car seat, letting the car and car seat do their job of protecting them in a crash.
Taking a few extra moments to make sure your child is properly buckled in with the five-point harness is cheap insurance against injuries that could have been prevented.