Car Seat Basics: Using the Proper Belt Path

Rear facing belt path

Rear facing belt path

Convertible car seats are two products in one — a rear facing car seat and a forward facing car seat. Some models also include a bonus third product — a booster mode. Like a DVD player built into a TV, or a crib that converts to a toddler bed, it’s convenient to bundle these products, but that means there are features that could be misused. All convertible and multimode seats include two belt paths — one for rear facing mode and one for forward facing mode.

Forward facing belt path

Forward facing belt path

Far too often, we see caregivers use the wrong belt path to install their child’s car seat.

The trick?  The correct belt bath for either direction is the one closest to the vehicle seat back.

Some manufacturers are attempting to prevent this by making the lower anchor webbing JUST BARELY long enough to reach the correct path.  Many manufacturers also color code the belt paths.

The Problem

Caregivers don’t read the labels on their child’s car seat to determine which belt path is correct before installing the car seat.  While many manufacturers clearly label each belt path — rear facing or forward facing — some are more subtle with their labels so it’s harder to determine the right path.  Like so many things in life — the right path isn’t always clear.

The Risk

When a car seat is installed with the lower anchors or the vehicle seat belt in the wrong belt path, the car seat can’t perform as designed in the event of a crash.  So the seat may flip over on itself or torque in a way that puts the child’s safety at risk.

This video from SafeKeepers, LLC shows the issue better than words alone ever could:

The dummy on the left is in a car seat that’s installed with the belt in the wrong belt path. That child flips over and impacts the vehicle seat in front of them.  The child on the right is in a car seat that’s installed with the belt in the proper belt path.  In this case, that’s the forward facing belt path.

The dummy on the right does not fly into the vehicle seat in front of them.  That child remains properly restrained through the entire crash sequence.

The Solution

Chicco NextFit iX Zip forward facing with lockoff

Chicco NextFit iX Zip forward facing with lockoff

The solution is pretty simple.  We like that kind of solution!

Take a moment to look closely at the belt path before starting to install your child’s car seat.  Confirm that it’s the correct path.  You could save your child’s life!