Help! Toddler Unbuckles While Driving!

Updated on June 15, 2009
R.C. asks from Galt, CA
7 answers

Hello ladies! I am DESPERATELY hoping somebody has some ideas for me! We just got my 3 yr old son a booster seat (evenflo no back), he is sooo tall he was kissing his knees in the carseat we had him in-we were actually looking for minivan to replace my compact 4dr sedan. But the booster gives him a lot more leg room now, so the minivan is on the back burner once again. Thing is today while driving I was driving with both boys, his head suddenly appears next to mine saying "hello, mommy!" Luckily I was driving in the neighborhood doing 35mph when I braked quickly. His eyes got big when he was pushed forward, and scrambled back into the seat. But he is excited that he is no longer smooshed in the 5 point harness and can just reach down and push the seatbelt button and he is now free. I pulled over, got out, relatched him in and scolded him. But I am terrified he might do this while I am on the freeway!!! Has anybody else had this with their toddler???

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So What Happened?

Thank you so much for all the responses! It is wonderful to know I am not alone in this situation! I visited the website that Elaine C. suggested and that scared me straight! I immediately removed the booster seat and replaced the old car seat and houdini can deal with it for a few more days until I get a combo car seat. The nautilaus looks more affordable than the britax but just as safe. And yes the California law is 4 and 40 so I was in the wrong to put him in a booster seat this early, but after reading about Kyle being ejected and killed I doubt I will ever use the booster seat. Thanks again ladies for such an immediate response considering the safety time issue!!!!

More Answers



answers from San Francisco on

Someone will probably have a better idea than mine but:

I am not a proponent of spanking, except in areas of extreme danger, such as this. If you are not a spanker, a swat on the butt over this might send a pretty clear message.

Even if you don't do that, for something like unbuckling the whole world should stop and some severe repercussions should happen immediately, so that he gets the message.

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answers from San Francisco on

I urge you to handle this with discipline rather than more safety equipment. Your son will be sitting in the regular seat before you know it!
My son, who is almost 3, figured out how to unbuckle the top half of his 5 point harness about 6 months ago and is getting close to being able to unbuckle the bottom half. Here's what I did:
The first time it happened I looked him in the eyes and told him he is never to open it again without permission. Subsequent times I pulled over as soon as it was safe and gave him a spanking. After which I buckled him back in, looked him in the eyes and repeated the rule to him. Then I closed his door, got back in and start driving again, ignoring any arguing! It has not happened in awhile.
Whatever you do, make sure he knows you aren't joking!

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answers from San Francisco on

if your son is unbuckling himself, he *really* doesn't have the maturity to sit safely in a booster seat and needs to be back in a seat with a 5-pt. harness. What is his torso height (seated distance from bottom to shoulder) and what's your budget? There are a lot more 5-point seats with higher height and weight limits than there used to be. Perhaps something like a Graco Nautilus, which is a forward-facing seat that can be used with the 5-point harness to 65 lbs. or about 19" of torso height, then converts to a high back or backless booster, would be a good choice.
this site has a good explanation of why toddlers are much safer in 5-pt harnesses. The Kyle David Miller foundation was started by a family whose 3YO son (who was riding in a booster) was ejected from their car in an accident



answers from San Francisco on

This may sound harsh but it worked for me. My cousins 2 boys use to do this and to this day (one is 13 now) they will not unbuckle their seat belts until I am at a complete stop and my car is in park or off. We were driving and they thought they were being funny by taking off their seat belts. Well, I take seat belt safety VERY seriously and I told them if they did it again I'm going to slam on my brakes, which would not feel anything like what would happen if I was in an accident. They didn't listen, I slammed on my breaks (enough that they flew to the back of the front seats, but not enough to actually hurt them) and it scared the poop out of them. I did it when they were not expecting it, which I think helped.
If that doesn't work, maybe you should put him back into his 5 point harness car seat. I thought Cali law was 4 AND 40 lbs, but it's been a while since I've looked at it.
Best of luck!


answers from Fresno on

I agree with Page - for something like this where a child is putting their life in danger, the WHOLE WORLD STOPS and the child gets to feel the full brunt of mommy's wrath immediately. Basically he needs to know that you are absolutely not kidding about this! My older daughter tried this ONCE, and my reaction apparently scared her straight. I don't give out too many spankings, but this is one instance where I did not hesitate to get my point across to her in that way! She's almost 7 now and has never tried it since - furthermore, my little one got to hear all about it from her big sister, and so my little one never tried getting out of her car seat either!! =)



answers from Sacramento on

Hi R.,

3 might be too young for a backless booster. I always thought it was 4 and 40lbs for a highback booster (so it threads the shoulder strap properly) and backless only after 6 or so. I would be way to scared to have my 3 year old in a booster seat (high or low back) for exactly the reason you described and because the seat only locks in an accident, so there's a good chance he'd wiggle around and not be positioned correctly.

If you are at all open to continued harnessing the Graco Nautilus is only like $140 and it's a very nice seat and harnessed to 65lbs. Plus, it's much trickier to unbuckle than the baby seats so bigger kids can't undo themselves.

Hope this helps.



answers from San Francisco on

OMG! My 15 month old started doing in the last couple of days too! First it was the high chair, then his stroller and for the last two days it's been his car seat!! (which is a Britax) He's successful on the high chair and stroller seat and today even a restaurant high chair. He's been quietly working at the car seat and I'm terrified that he's going to get it to open. I called Lullaby Lane today to ask if it's even possible for a toddler to open the latch and they say no. I'm going to contact Britax tomorrow. I can't believe it! My guy is big and strong but not freakishly out of the ordinary ;-) Best wishes to you.

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