Since I stopped writing ParentWheels, I haven't blogged that much about child car safety, but that doesn't mean that I feel any less passionately about it. Recently I've found myself in a car seat conundrum and I made the decision to buy a booster seat rather than a high-backed seat - something that made me feel guilty that I might not be offering Lara the highest level of safety that I can. Huggybelt contacted me shortly after I bought the booster seat and asked me to try out their nifty gadget designed to improve child safety in the car when using the 3-point car seat belt.
The Huggybelt is a clip-in device designed to keep the car's seat belt in the optimum position to ensure safety in the event of a collision. As you know, a car seat belt is really designed to be used by adults. That's why children have to stay in car seats until they are tall enough or old enough for their bodies to behave like adults' in the event of an accident. When I moved Lara into the booster seat (and on the rare occasions when Holly has travelled in one) I really noticed that the adult belt sits very high across her shoulders and that this means that she has a lot more freedom of movement than she did in her high-backed seat (which holds the belt taught over the shoulder). The Huggybelt is a little addition to the seatbelt which holds the belt comfortably above your child's shoulder and makes it more difficult for them to squirm away from the belt. It is a portable, folding contraption that clips into one of your ISOFIX mounts, passes behind the back and then clips and wraps around the seatbelt. It is quick to fit and portable so you can take it with you when travelling in other people's cars or taxis.
I found the Huggybelt very easy to fit. My husband found it a bit tough to adjust the height so I think, if we choose to buy another, we will keep one permanently adjusted to Holly and one to Lara who is considerably taller. You can use the Huggybelt with many group 2/3 seats to hold the seatbelt in place above the shoulder too but most of our car seats are ISOFIX themselves so we don't have a spare mount; many high-backed car seats do also have a feeder to hold the belt in place. Even after your child no longer needs to use a car seat (above 135cm or around 12 years old) you can use a Huggybelt to help keep the seat belt sitting comfortably across the shoulders. Many children find the feeling of the belt against the neck to be irritating and then they are tempted to move the belt out of the way; the Huggybelt covers the belt with a padded area which reduces the likelihood of your child wanting to move the belt.
The Huggybelt has noticeably reduced the amount of wiggling and messing about that the girls do in the back seat. Simply holding the belt against the shoulder reduces their ability to wrangle their way out of the belt to reach over to one another, or reach down for something they've dropped. This reduction in movement is a good thing - it means that the belt is doing what it needs to do and, in the event of an accident, it could hold them in safely.
Huggybelt's safety figures and crash test videos make for interesting reading and watching. The results clearly show that if the 3-point belt is being used properly then it is far, far safer for your child. And this is why I am very seriously considering buying a second Huggybelt for our travels.