Child-Proofing a Seat Belt Buckle - Can it be Done?

I know that the issue of Josh getting out of his car seat came up back in the Fall when he was having such a tough time.  I noted in my post then that I had found some devices to use over the seat belt buckle. At the time I found 2 different ones and ended up trying them both.

I thought it might be useful if I shared my experiences with these products, in case anyone reading is having the same issue.

There's a back-story here, and I'm going to give you that first - if your child is younger than Josh it could be relevant!

 

When Josh was big enough to transition from a car-seat to a booster, he was about 5 - 6. Unfortunately, he discovered very quickly how to push the nice big red button to release the belt and was constantly getting out of the seat while I was driving. After a while of this I got fed up with spending more time pulled over somewhere to get him back in his seat than I spent driving. So I started looking for something I could put on the buckle to keep him from releasing it. At that time, all I could find on the internet were articles about how un-safe this would be, in the event that emergency personnel needed to get the child out of the car after an accident.

So I gave up on that idea and started looking at seats instead - there had to be something that was built to deal with this! I knew that he had been fine in the car seat, with the five-point harness, he never tried getting out of that, even though it wouldn't have been very difficult. He just didn't. So I found a car seat by Britax that was made specifically for children with special needs who were older and bigger - would hold him until he was 80 lbs and used a five-point harness. It was their "Husky" model, which has since been discontinued. As small as my kids are, I knew the seat would last him a very long time. Let's just put it this way - that was almost 7 years ago, and he is still not 80lbs yet.

And it did the trick. He was great in it, never tried releasing the buckle. So the five-point harness was a good thing for him. I don't honestly understand why he never tried releasing the buckle on that, when he would do it constantly with a belt-positioning booster. Maybe it was because the red release button for the five-point buckle is always on the front, facing outward, harder for him to see. Who knows? It just worked. So we were good for quite a few years.

In case you're looking at seats, here is what Britax has replaced the Husky with:   http://www.britaxusa.com/car-seats/frontier-85 

 

But then he went through his rough patch. And sure enough, he started getting out of the harness and the car seat when he was upset/angry. So I was back to looking for something to go over the buckle.

This time, I ignored all of the fuss about "oh you can't do that, what if the firemen have to get your child out of the car after an accident?" Two things. First: If Josh is out of his seat, and we had an accident, he would likely be killed, not just difficult to remove from his seat. Second: I'm pretty sure simply cutting the seat belt strap would be quick and easy. His safety in the car on a daily basis far out-weighed any concern about getting him out after an accident.

And low and behold, I did manage to find a couple of devices.

First, I tried the Angel Guard.  Here is the video for it:

So you can see how it works, and how it goes on and comes off.

My experience: It certainly works. Josh was not able to get through to the release button when the Angel Guard was in place. However, when Josh was really angry and managed to hit it hard enough, he was able to pop it off once himself. I also discovered a serious design flaw...

 

 

These are the 2 that I used.

You can see that on both, one side of the back pieces that you pull to get the device on and off around the buckle has broken off, rendering them useless.

 

The mechanical stress of how you put this on and take it off is too much for the plastic that it is made out of and they break.

 

 

So, I tried this one next:

 

This one is called the Buckle Guard Pro, and is made by

McNaughton, Inc.

 

With this one, there are 2 pieces. The black bottom piece and the white cap. The bottom piece opens on one side so that you can get it on and off. There are 2 tiny plastic tabs that are supposed to help close the side, and then you screw the cap on to keep the release button covered. It is a "child proof cap" like on medicine bottles, you have to push down and un-screw it at the same time to get it off.

Does it work? Yes. However, this particular design has some problems and the device is just poorly made out of flimsy material.

First of all, the tabs never actually fit properly in to their spaces on the bottom piece so it never quite closed properly around the buckle. Then, if you over tightened the cap? It would just come right off. Josh was able to pull the cap straight off when he was mad and all he had to do was hit it hard a couple of times and it would pop right off. If you have a young toddler who is not as strong as my 12 year-old? Then it might be ok. However, it involves 2 pieces which is not optimal in any situation as it would be easy to lose part of it, and it was a bit time consuming to put on. As a mom, with kids, time consuming and easily lost are not good qualities in anything you might need. 

 

Well, now what? I have to say I was in a bit of a panic again this week. Yes, Josh has been great on the current med regimen and things have been a gajillion times better than last Fall. But, he still has his moments and since the last device was so terrible, he was simply popping it off and climbing out whenever the mood struck him. Which is not good.

But guess what? When I was looking up some things before I sat down to write this, I found one more device that I hadn't seen in my previous searches:

 

 

This one is simply called Buckle Guard, and it's from eSpecial Needs (you can also get it at Amazon).

Just from looking at it, I can see that the issues I have had with the other ones, won't be issues with this one. It is solid all around, so there won't be any weak spots to break off. There is no extra piece that can be pulled or smashed off in an angry fit. It simply sits over top of the buckle/release button.

To release, you will need to use another belt (like you do with many of the Latch systems for car seats) and just slide it through one of the spaces and pop the button, or you could use a car-key to do the same thing. I ordered one and will update this post once we're using it, so I can tell you first hand if it works as well as it looks like it should.

 

If you have found and/or are using something else that I didn't mention here, please let me know in the comments! Would be good to know what else is out there, if anything.