Some Popular Positioning Devices
Cautions and Recommendations from
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has conducted tests on
three of these products, which are not regulated by any safety standard. Many
similar products were not included in the tests. In addition, the manufacturers
of the products tested are not obligated to revise their products or include
warnings to the public based on concerns raised by test results. SafetyBeltSafe
U.S.A. has requested that NHTSA adopt standards for after-market products used
with child restraints and vehicle safety belts, none of which are covered by
Excerpts from "Evaluation of Devices to Improve Shoulder Belt Fit,"
based on tests conducted by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration,
published in August, 1996:
"The apparent leading motivation behind the development of these types of
devices is to improve lap/shoulder belt fit
[but] the performance of the
vehicles restraint system should not be detrimentally affected by the use
of such a device. All of the devices evaluated in this study produced some
degradation in the performance of the lap/shoulder belt system
increase in belt comfort due to OEM [vehicle] equipment, it is anticipated
that the need for after market belt fit devices will decrease."
After discussing the test results with several safety experts, SafetyBeltSafe
U.S.A. makes the following recommendations:
- Do not use any of these devices for children, who should use a
belt-positioning booster to improve the positioning of the lap/shoulder belt
and the fit of the vehicle seat. All boosters fit up to at least 60 lbs.;
maximum weights vary from 60-100 lbs.
- For short adults and children too big to fit in a booster, check the
vehicle owners manual to find out if the shoulder belt has a movable
shoulder belt anchor.
- Try special products or home-made remedies to improve comfort without
changing the position of the belt. Examples: wrap a lambs wool or velour
sleeve around the shoulder belt where it touches the neck; use the collar of
the occupants shirt or dress to keep the shoulder belt from scraping the
neck; keep a small, soft towel in the car which can be used by passengers as
- Remember that the purpose of a belt-positioning device is to improve
comfort, not to increase safety. The only real benefit of these products is
that they may prevent some people from putting the shoulder belt under the
arm or behind the back. In crash tests, these devices generally did not
reduce the amount of force on the neck. If you must use a shoulder belt
positioning device for a teenager or adult passenger to prevent him or her
from placing the shoulder belt under the arm or behind the back, make sure
- The positioning device is made of fabric or webbing, to avoid possible
injury from bent or broken parts during a crash.
- The device is connected only to the shoulder belt, not to the lap belt.
Otherwise, the lap belt could be pulled upward, possibly resulting in
- Minimal slack is added to shoulder portion of the belt.
- The belt is not placed near edge of shoulder, allowing upper body to be
thrust out of the belt.
The complete report is available to the public from the National Technical
Information Service, Springfield, Virginia 22161.
Product Safety Commission Statement on belt-positioning products
Seat Belt Positioners May be
Hazardous For Small Children
WASHINGTON, DC (SafetyAlerts)
- The U.S. Department of Transportation's National Highway Traffic Safety
Administration (NHTSA) has proposed that manufacturers of aftermarket, add-on
seat belt positioners be required to warn that the devices may not be suitable
for young or small children.
The devices are advertised as improving
the fit of lap and shoulder belts for children and small adults. The devices
were found to be inadequate in restraining the three-year-old child crash-test
dummy, resulting in a reduction in seat belt performance in some tests and
increased risk of head injury. Although the devices generally performed
adequately with the six-year-old dummy, there was a reduction in seat belt
Three typical models were tested by
NHTSA. Belt positioning devices can cause the lap belt to rise up in
a crash and lie across the soft abdominal area instead of staying lower and
lying across the child's hips, thereby increasing the potential for abdominal
injury. In the proposal, NHTSA discusses the possibility of adopting performance
"This continues our effort to
improve safety, our highest transportation priority," U.S. Transportation
Secretary Rodney E. Slater said. "There is no greater responsibility than
ensuring the safety of children, and this proposal, if adopted, would help
parents provide for the safety of children."
"This information is necessary so
that parents can provide the safest restraint for every child of every
size," said NHTSA Administrator Ricardo Martinez, M.D.
NHTSA said that the current requirements
of the federal safety standards for child restraint systems may not be
appropriate, since belt positioners would generally pass the standard with the
six-year-old dummy even though the devices might result in some degradation of
safety performance. At this time there are no abdominal sensors or corresponding
injury criteria for the child dummies used by NHTSA in compliance testing, and
therefore no way to evaluate the potential for abdominal injury using the
existing test protocols.