Legal Articles
Consumer Law & Consumer Protection
Get Started Finding a Local Attorney Now

Simply fill out this form to connect with an Attorney serving your area.

Young Children Able to Unbuckle Seat Belts

A survey undertaken by the Yale School of Medicine indicates that children as young as 1 year old can get out of car seats. Researchers found that children can unbuckle their safety seats by their fourth birthday, and this ability was reported as early as age 1. However, most of the children were older. Of the children studied, 75 percent were age 3 or older. According to the study, 43 percent of the children unbuckled the seats while the car was in motion. More than half of the families studied reported that their children had unbuckled their car seats.

Researcher Dr. Lillian Reyes noted that this situation is dangerous because children are just beginning to understand the consequences of unbuckling by age 3. The findings included different types of car seats including five-point harnesses, convertible seats, and booster seats. Dr. Reyes also stated that the study did not address whether the children were properly buckled into the seats beforehand.

Other commentators questioned whether the child restraints were used properly. One spokesperson advised that federal law requires that a buckle not release until 9 to 14 pounds of pressure is applied. "It is often challenging for an adult to unbuckle the harness," said Lorrie Walker of advocacy group SafeKidsUSA. Walker noted that buckles could appear to secure when not completely latched. She also suggested that children could get out of car seats if the harness is attached too loosely. A representative of Consumer Reports also seemed surprised by the findings. "We have never failed a seat due to buckle release force, either too much or too little," said Jennifer Stockburger, Consumer Reports' program manager of child and vehicle safety.

Have your car safety seat inspected

Parents can have an expert look at their child's car seat to determine whether it is installed correctly. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration website provides a list of certified child passenger safety technicians who will check your car seat for free. Just enter your ZIP code and this site will provide you with the closest technician. And even if your seats are properly installed, keep a close eye on your children. They just might be practicing their escape tactics in your backseat.