Five-point harness car seats are considered the safest place for a child to sit in a vehicle. These seats protect a child’s body from harm in the event of a car accident, and are much safer than using the vehicle’s seat belts. Learn why these types of car seats are so important, and how to properly install them in a vehicle.
What is a five-point harness car seat?
A five-point harness car seat is a type of car seat for infants, toddlers, and young children that has shoulder straps and hip straps that attach at the chest and groin areas. In the event of a car accident or vehicle impact, these types of car seats allow a properly secured child to have less of a risk of serious injury or death. These car seats protect a child’s body by evenly distributing the force of an impact throughout the body’s strongest points: the shoulders and the hips.
These car seats have become highly recommended as the safest way for children to travel in a vehicle, as opposed to the vehicle seat and seatbelt. Five-point harness type car seats help protect children from vehicle-related injuries.
A 5-point harness car seat is named for the five points where the harness webbing attaches to the car seat. Two harness points are at the child’s shoulders, two harness points are at the baby’s hips, and the fifth point is where the harness straps buckle between the child’s legs.
Five-point harness car seats should be used by all newborns, infants, and toddlers until they meet the maximum height limits and weight limits.
A 5-point harness car seat adapts to a quickly growing child. The straps in the car seat must be positioned correctly and fit properly to ensure that the forces from a car accident are transferred to the car seat itself and the child’s rigid shoulder bones. A 5-point harness car seat makes it easy to adjust the belt to different positions as a child’s height changes.
Why is this type of car seat so beneficial?
A child’s car seat should keep them safe at all times. Regular car seats and seat belts are not appropriate for babies, toddlers, and young children. In the event of a car accident, or if a car swerves, turns, or stops suddenly, the force can pull a child out of their car seat and cause serious injury.
A 5-point harness seat belt ensures that parents properly position their little ones in the car.
Five-point harness car seats allow babies and young children to be positioned properly in a vehicle. These car seats have five points where the car seat secures the child’s body, and the impact of a car crash distributes the force evenly across bigger areas of the child’s body, preventing serious injury and death.
5-point harness systems are safety tested.
Crash testing shows that a five-point harness car seat is the optimum form of safety restraint for babies and young children in the event of an impact. The soft parts of a child’s body might not be able to withstand crash forces the same way rigid parts of the body do. When a child is only held in by a 3-point harness, they can easily fold over the belt or restraint upon impact. The belt can intrude into the child’s abdomen, causing serious injury.
Crash test dummies have allowed researchers to study the forces on rigid parts of a child’s body during different crash scenarios. A 5-point harness car seat is designed to ensure the forces on each part of the body remain within safe limits. These types of car seats provide a measure of safety for young children when they ride in a vehicle.
Rear-facing car seats are appropriate for babies and young children.
Children should always ride in a car seat that is appropriate for their age, weight, and height. Rear-facing car seats should be used from birth through between ages 2 and 4, depending on a child’s growth and state laws. Rear-facing seats usually have a handle and sides that cradle the child, forming a protective barrier around them.
Infants should always be buckled in a rear-facing car seat with a harness, in the back seat, until they reach the maximum weight or height limit of the car seat. The car seat’s manual should have information on the weight and height limits. A rear-facing car seat should never be installed in the front seat. Airbags are extremely dangerous to young children during a car crash.
There are three types of rear-facing car seats: infant car seats, convertible car seats, and all-in-one car seats (can switch from rear-facing, to forward-facing, to a booster seat).
A forward-facing car seat is designed for toddlers and older children.
When a child outgrows the rear-facing seat, forward-facing car seats can and should be used until at least age 5. When a child outgrows the rear-facing car seat limits, they should be restrained in a forward-facing car seat with a harness and top tether, in the back seat of the vehicle. A forward-facing seat usually has a harness and a tether.
A child should remain using forward-facing car seats until they reach the maximum weight or height limit of the seat. Parents can check the car seat manual for information on these limits. A child’s age is not as important as their actual height and weight.
There are three types of forward-facing car seats: convertible car seats, a combination seat (can adjust from a harness-and-tether to a booster seat), or an all-in-one seat (can be rear-facing, forward facing, and switch into booster seats).
What is the difference between a five-point harness car seat and a booster seat?
When a child outgrows a forward-facing car seat, a booster seat should be used until the car’s seat belt fits properly across a child’s chest and hips. Kids should be buckled into a belt-positioning booster seat with a seat belt, always in the back seat, until they can use a seat belt properly without the booster seat (it should fit properly across a child’s chest and a child’s hips).
Although some parents are quick to move their children to a booster seat, most kids can safely fit in 5-point harness car seats well beyond age 4. In fact, many car seat manufacturers design seats so that the harness height is adjustable and can be used for kids up to age 7 or 8 years old. For young children, booster seats are not as safe as 5-point harness style seats.
The seat belt fits properly when the lap belt lays across the upper thighs, and the shoulder belt is across the center of a child’s chest and shoulder, not across the neck or face. Children are typically old enough to use the vehicle’s seat belts between ages 9 and 12.
There are different types of booster seats as well. A backless booster is a specialized cushion that a child sits on that raises them off the vehicle’s seat, helping the seat belt have a better fit. A backless booster-type car seat has a belt guide to keep the seat belts positioned in a way that keeps the child securely restrained.
How do you properly use a five-point harness car seat?
Parents must adjust the seat’s shoulder straps.
On most seats, there are ways to adjust the height of the strap for the child’s shoulders. Some seats require parents to rethread the straps to move them higher or lower. Other seats require the headrest to move up and down, the shoulder belt moves with it.
With rear-facing car seats, it is simple to rethread the straps as the baby grows, because you don’t have to take the whole car seat out to adjust them. On a forward-facing car seat, a no-rethread harness can save parents from having to remove the car seat in order to move the straps up as a child grows.
Properly adjusting the harness straps is key to car seat safety. The harness height matters. The shoulder straps should be at or below the child’s shoulders when rear-facing, and at or above the child’s shoulders when using a forward-facing car seat.
Parents also need to tighten the harness.
The harness should be tightened so that parents can’t pinch any excess webbing. Every time a child is placed in the car seat, parents should slide the chest clip down to the belly while they tighten the straps, then pull the shoulder belt to remove slack. Pull firmly on the webbing tail that usually sticks out of the car seat by the baby’s feet. Then, move the chest clip to armpit level after the straps are properly tightened.
The crotch buckle might need to be adjusted as well.
The crotch buckle (the part of the 5-point harness between the bay’s legs) might be adjustable. Follow the car seat’s manual to figure out how to adjust it. Some car seats also have an adjustable hip width of the harness. Select a slot for this part of the 5-point harness that brings it closer to the baby’s hips, and then move it back out as the baby grows.
Parents should buckle the 5-point harness correctly every time.
Place your baby into the car seat, so that they sit all the way back in the seat without slouching. Then, put the baby’s arms through the harness straps.
The 5-point harness straps should go over the baby’s shoulders, down the chest and belly, over the hips, and buckle between the legs. Make sure both tongues of the buckle are clipped into the crotch buckle, and the chest clip is closed properly.
Car seat safety is important for parents to learn about.
A child’s car seat harness should keep them safe in the event of a sudden impact or car crash. There are many car seats to choose from, and parents should take care to pick out the seat that is right for their child’s measurements. Using a five-point harness seat in the car until the child reaches the height or weight maximum can be one of the easiest ways to protect your child from serious injury when riding in a vehicle.
Meet Our KeaMommy Contributor: Kaitlyn Torrez
I’m Kaitlyn Torrez, from the San Francisco Bay Area. I live with my husband and two children, Roman and Logan. I’m a former preschool teacher, currently enjoying being a stay at home mom. I love all things writing, coffee, and chocolate. In my free time, I enjoy reading, blogging, and working out.
If you have a baby or are expecting one, taking advantage of baby offers can save you money on essential items like diapers, formula, and baby gear.
Enter to win $1000 worth of Diapers