Throughout all the child safety seat check events that we have conducted, we have seen many kinds of belt path errors.
The most common type of belt path error for UNECE safety seat (child restraint system, CRS) is for rear-facing installation where the shoulder belt is usually routed behind the CRS. Most parents get confused on which needs to go behind the CRS, either the lap or the shoulder portion of the belt. Some who understand, choose to ignore the manufacturer’s instructions because it is harder to put a wriggling child inside the CRS when there is a horizontal shoulder belt in the way near the door. They ended up zig-zagging the belt behind the CRS so the shoulder portion of the belt goes on the other side of the CRS instead (refer picture below).
But why the need to strictly follow manufacturer’s instructions? What will happen to a CRS that is installed with the wrong belt path?
It may rotate sideways hitting the door or other occupants inside the cabin. It may rotate forward causing extra load to your child’s neck. We will never know exactly how it will behave during a crash. It may even increase the risk of injuries or death to your child because its safety features being rendered useless due to the wrong belt path used.
Another type of belt path error is using the rear-facing belt path for forward-facing installation, or vice versa. In the video below, two CRS were installed forward-facing next to each other. One that you can see clearly nearest to the viewer was installed correctly. The other on the far side next to it, was installed using the rear-facing belt path. Witness how the one misrouted rotated further forward increasing the risk of head injury.
Below is another video of incorrect belt path. On the left, a rear-facing seat is installed correctly. On the right, the rear-facing CRS is installed using the forward-facing belt path. See how it rotates violently forward.
To truly protect your child during a journey is not only to use an appropriate CRS, but to install and use it correctly each time. ALWAYS refer to manufacturer’s instructions which you may find in the CRS manual.