Earlier this year, Mykl and I both attended a Car Seat Safety Check hosted by North Memorial to make sure we both had Levi's car seat installed properly in our cars. I've been rear-facing my son for over 3 years and I still learned something new – when you use a rear-facing LATCH install, the seat belt can become a choking hazard for kids.
Here's what can happen: You're driving along and your toddler decides to pull on the shoulder strap. Hey, it's there right in front of them and there's nothing better to do, right? As they let go, the belt retracts. Woo, now this is getting fun! They quietly entertain themselves by pulling the seat belt strap and OOPS – they accidentally wrap it around their neck. The seat belt doesn't know the difference and starts retracting, tightening the belt around your child's neck. Meanwhile, you're in the front seat driving and have to take the time to pull over once you realize what's happening, which could cost precious seconds if your child is already being suffocated by the seat belt.
See how quickly things can get dangerous?
Luckily, there's an easy fix the certified car seat safety techs taught us.
Avoid a choking hazard: Buckle belt while tension is locked
To buckle the shoulder belt while the tension is locked, all you need to do is pull out the seat belt from the seat, insert it into the buckle, then let it retract into a “locked” position. Now if your child tries to play with the seat belt, they will be unable to pull it away from the seat since it is already locked into place flat against the seat back.
Having Trouble? Try this trick
If you're having difficulty getting the seat belt to lock into position as you buckle it, try this trick.
Feeding the shoulder belt behind headrest can help provide enough leverage for the belt to “lock” into place as you buckle it. Remember, securing the seat belt into the buckle isn't enough – it MUST be in the locked position in order to neutralize the choking hazard.
I was surprised to learn this when Mykl and I went in for our car seat check. I hope you find it useful and share with any parents who may not be aware of the seat belt choking hazard for rear-facing car seats.