That mid-sized sedan you bought a few years ago really made sense for your family. You’ve got two kids, you commute, and you didn’t want a car payment or a second mortgage to cover fuel costs.
And it was working just fine until this afternoon, when the neighbor asked you if you would pick up her kid from school along with yours.
This is safe, right?
Or maybe this is where you live.
That window 14 stories up? That’s your living room. Oh, did I mention the elevator is out?
And this? This is your car.
We get it. You aren’t lugging a booster up and down those 14 stories every time you need to catch a cab. We at Car Seats For the Littles feel your pain. The folks at Safe Traffic Systems have stepped in with a product, the Ride Safer Travel Vest, to fill these niche concerns.
The purpose of a booster is to literally boost the child up so that the belt falls along the body where it would on an adult. The belt path also helps to absorb the forces of a crash, meaning less of the force is taken directly by the child’s pelvis.
The Ride Safer Travel Vest is a wearable booster. It holds the seatbelt in place where it ought to go. It weighs nearly nothing, and can easily be stored in a backpack, or clipped onto a purse.
Currently, there are two models available; both include a head pillow and do an excellent job of positioning the seat belt over the child. There are two sizes available.
CSFTL Quick Stats
- Size: Small
- Ages: 3-6 years *
- Weight range: 30-60 lbs
- Height range: 35-50″
*though this is the manufacturer’s minimum age, CSFTL doesn’t recommend this vest for children quite that young, we’d suggest it for Littles who are closer to their 5th birthdays and older
- Size: Large
- Ages: 5-8 years
- Weight range: 50-80 lbs
- Height range: 45-57″
Ride Safer 2
- Can be used with a lap only belt and a top tether up to 60 lbs.
- Can also be used with a lap/shoulder belt.
- Has a crotch strap for adjusting sitting height.
- Can be used with a lap/shoulder belt.
- Can NOT be used with a lap-only belt.
- Does not have a top tether.
- Adjusts sitting height via straps on the back.
For this review, we tested version two in both sizes. Joanna is a CPST with many years experience working with child restraints and tested size large with her kids aged 6, 7.5, and 8. Fellow CPST Liz offered her opinion of the small size with her 3.5 and 7 year olds.
First, Joanna’s Thoughts
The vest comes in a brightly colored box and within that, the vest itself comes in a storage bag, suitable for transport. The smaller pieces (top tether strap, and crotch strap, both optional), come in a smaller bag.
The manual, really, a folded and highly durable piece of paper, comes tucked in a clever hidey-pocket in the front of the vest.
The restrictions indicated in the manual suggest this seat is indicated for children 5-8 years of age, 50-80 lbs and 45-57″.
The model here is 4’4″, is 7 1/2 years of age and weighs 60 lbs. The vest is slightly loose on her, even when snugged down.
Even so, it provides an excellent belt fit.
We tried the accompanying pillow for head support. She declared it, ‘impossible and not comfortable’. Noted. It also seemed to interfere with top tether use (which is indicated for children under 60 lbs when using a lap belt only. Children over 60 lbs should use the dual tether anchor provided by Safe Traffic Systems or use the seat with lap-shoulder belt).
These two models are just slightly outside the specs of the seat.
The big guy is 4’9.25″ and 75 lbs, 8 years old. Nevertheless, the vest fits him comfortably and provides a perfect belt fit. While we do not advocate using products outside their stated manufacturer limits, this shows that the height and weight maximum on the seat are realistic.
The little fellow is 46.5″, 44 lbs, and 6 years old. While he is within the height restriction of the seat by several inches, he misses the weight cut off by 6 lbs.
The vest is extremely loose on him. While the lap belt fit is excellent, low on the hips, the shoulder belt fit is poor, up by his face instead of over his shoulder, and hovering slightly in front of his chest instead of crossing it firmly. This is indeed intended for older, bigger kids.
Remember that mess of car seats up top?
This looks more comfortable, doesn’t it?
Second, Liz’s Thoughts
The vest isn’t just for bigger kids. They make a small size, too! At 37 lbs, 38″ and just shy of 4 years old, our young and sassy model fits nicely into this size range, though we quickly discovered that for a kiddo her age, using the vest properly was a bit of a challenge.
For us, the vest’s top-selling point is that it continuously holds the seat belt properly on the child. We’ve struggled with booster training my oldest daughter (she was 6.5 when we started booster training, at 7.5, it was still a work in progress) — her fondness for reaching down to grab things off the car floor presents a safety risk.
Our younger model rode rear facing most of the time when we first tried the vest for her, but we have a big trip coming up so we needed an alternative to dragging her bulky car seat along. When given the opportunity to review the vest we enthusiastically said yes! She chose pink and stalked the mailbox until her vest arrived.
|The manufacturer lists the following benefits of the vest:|
We’ve found all of those things to be true!
Getting her into the vest is a snap — it’s only one buckle and a strap between her legs. Then she got to walk around ‘like an astronaut!’ wearing the vest before we got into the car.
First, we buckled the seatbelt in, then threaded the belt through three loops on the vest itself. The loop for the shoulder portion of the seatbelt is underneath this tidy little flap.You do not need to lock the seatbelt.
Using the top tether was also pretty straightforward. In less than a minute, she was ready to go. That kind of convenience is hard to beat! It has a small footprint — it’s only as wide as the child’s bottom so a child wearing the vest can sit between two bulky car seats. This has been a lifesaver for us more than once as it easily stows in the trunk for an unexpected rider!
Fit to Child
4 Years Old
While the manufacturer’s guidelines suggest that children as young as 3 can use this product, at CSFTL we would strongly recommend that the Ride Safer Travel Vest be used for children who are closer to their 5th birthdays.
Our main hesitation in using the RSTV for younger children concerns expecting a young child to sit properly all the time.
We used the RSTV in some cab rides around the Disney property. Our young model was unable to thread the seat belt through the vest, we had to do this for her.
Tip: ask the cab driver to wait until you’re all buckled in before leaving. Oops.
While the RSTV is more restrictive than a traditional booster, it is still a booster and requires the child to have the maturity level to stay somewhat in position
Our models’ ability to sit properly was quite poor. She preferred a ‘sideways-leaning/arms-flailing about’ posture that didn’t please us so much. Having an adult sit right next to her helped to curtail this behavior and once we’d figured out those two tricks, she was better able to ride properly for the rest of our trip.
But the situation wasn’t great. It was such a constant struggle that I wished we had just brought a car seat for her and rented a car. We ended up changing our plans to use fewer cab rides.
I was not comfortable with her using the vest for more than very occasional trips until she was closer to 5 years old. For very occasional use and on trips where we just can’t bring a car seat, the vest is a viable option, but not my first choice for a child as young as the model was at the time.
5 Years Old
We took the same Disney trip a year later, when the model was turning 5. What a difference that year made! She still required an adult to help buckle her in, but with an adult sitting right next to her on every ride, she sat properly enough that I wasn’t as worried as I’d been the previous year.
This supports our assertion that the Ride Safer Travel vest is a great option for children who are close to their 5th birthdays and older.
7 Years Old, size Small
Our older model was 7 years old, 49 lbs and 48″ here. She was over the suggested age range of 3-6 years old for the size small, but within the weight and height limits for the small vest.
The fit was great and she found it to be comfortable. She was able to buckle herself into the vest and thread the seatbelt through the loops once in the car. It’s great to know that the weight and height limits of the small vest are realistic for bigger kids, too.
8 Years Old, size Large
At 8 years old, 51 pounds and 49 inches, this model was just barely over the minimum weight limit for the large size of the vest. It fit her, but was a bit loose. She was able to buckle herself into the vest, and thread the seat belt through the vest once we were in the car.
Since this model rides in a booster most of the time, she was able to sit properly in the vest. It was an excellent option for a child of this age.
FAA Approval: Still in the Works
But wait, there’s more coming soon!
Another thing we’re extremely excited about is that Safe Travel Systems is currently working to modify the vest to make it FAA compliant. While we have not seen the updated design, we imagine it will include some type of strap that secures the top of the harness round the back of the airline seat. This would certainly add to the usability of the vest; it would allow older children to be safely restrained on the plane without needing to bring a larger and more awkward harnessed seat aboard. They could then transition directly to a vehicle and be safely transported, unlike other airplane harness products that are only suitable for the airplane itself, not the car ride after.
New colors! We love the blue and pink currently available, but the newly created yellow and green colors are awfully sharp! We got a chance to check them out at the Kidz In Motion Conference last month.
- Easy to use with lap/shoulder belt
- Doesn’t take up any more space than the child’s body does
- Can be tricky to thread the seat belt through
- Head support is bulky
All in all, the RSTV is an excellent product that suits a variety of needs: whether you’re a city dweller without a regular vehicle, the carpool parent, a frequent traveler, or trying to fit a tight 3-across in a small car; the RSTV is an excellent alternative to the traditional booster seat. Now for the BEST news: the amazing folks at Safe Ride 4 Kids and Safe Traffic Systems provided our vests for review, and they would like to give one away!
One TWO!! lucky readers will win a Ride Safer 2 in their choice of small or large and blue or pink. Contest open to US residents only.
Thanks again to Safe Ride 4 Kids for helping us get around safely!
In honor of CPS Week, Safe Ride 4 Kids has knocked down their prices to $115 for the Ride Safer3 and $125 for the RideSafer 2, with free shipping! Enter the giveaway, but check out the sale too, while it lasts!
Giveaway is now closed, congrats to Megan and Monica, the winners!