Not so cute: the dangers of seat belt covers

Kinderling News & Features

Part of the fun of having a baby is all the great shopping you get to do! Sweet, tiny clothes, decking out the nursery, and all sorts of adorable accessories.

But when it comes to car safety, it’s best not to accessorise, as this mum can attest.

Slippery straps

Hannah McKinney’s two-month-old daughter was strapped into her car seat when the car flipped and rolled not once, but twice. Baby Robin was ejected from the seat on impact, breaking her arm and also sustaining injuries from broken glass in her head.

“The vehicle cartwheeled twice and rested on its side,” Hannah recalls.

Hannah says the sheepskin seatbelt covers on the straps of Robin’s seat meant the straps slipped off her baby’s shoulders when the car crashed.

While the straps were firmly secured, the placement of these sheepskin covers meant they didn’t restrain her baby correctly. This resulted in the failure of the seat on impact as this tiny baby went hurtling out of the car, at speed.

“When we got to the vehicle all straps were tight and intact plus car seat still in base still attached to seat,” Hannah says, “but with the force of the vehicle the sheep skin slid against her shirt and made her go flying out.”

Safety is number one

While these sheepskin covers had obviously been installed with baby Robin’s comfort in mind, Hannah warns parents that anything that doesn’t come standard with your car seat should not be used – and may put your child at risk.

“Please please please people DO NOT put things on a car seat that did not come that way from the manufacturer. Plus anything on a car seat in a accident voids the warranty!” Hannah says. “They may look cute and it may be soft but for your child’s safety don’t do it.”

Listen to Kinderling Conversation:

Think before you drive

Experts warn that just because products like this are on sale, it doesn’t mean they are safe to use. These strap covers interfere with the safety-tested positioning of the straps and harness, making them ineffective when it counts the most.

Most car seat manufacturers warn against using ‘aftermarket products’ such as seat covers, cushions, strap covers and neck pillows. This is because these items aren’t included in car seat safety tests, so they can impact how the seat functions in a crash. Plus, aftermarket products void the warranty on your seat, as Hannah mentions in her post!

Ensure you check out the Australian Mandatory Standard for child car restraints.

It’s also good to note that other car products aimed at kids can pose dangers, and any loose items in a car has the potential to be dangerous in an accident.

ABC News in the US recently reported “everything from luggage to soda pop cans that were not tied down were responsible for more than 13,000 injuries in accidents nationwide in just one year” (in the US). They highlighted a case where a child’s skull was cracked by a flying mobile phone when a vehicle crashed.

As the weather gets cooler, remember also that bulky jackets and garments – or blankets tucked under your baby’s car seat harness can pose a risk to the seat’s effectiveness if its involved in an accident.

This post originally appeared on Babyology.