Using the Car Safety Vest
- What: Ride Safer Travel Vest
- When: Traveling with kids
- Why: Packable, easier to fit multiple car seats
- Where: Amazon
We used the Ride Safer Travel Harness, which substitutes for a booster seat in a much more portable package, during our three week trip abroad. While it definitely satisfied the packing requirements, and beat the pants off carting a third car seat along, I didn’t love it.
My son (just shy of eight years old) couldn’t fasten the main buckle by himself, which frustrated him daily, if not more often. We also installed it between a convertible car seat (Britax Marathon in case you need to know) and a 2-in-1 highback booster (Cosco Highback Booster) in a Mazda 6 station wagon. With three across in the single back seat, I didn’t have the time or energy to play car seat Jenga upon arrival after 29 hours of travel and no more than a 30 minutes nap.
We had adjusted the vest on my son before departure, so I had one thing checked off the list. We ordered a size large (they come in both small and large sizes), but it was loose on my son, who weighs around 54 pounds (somewhat light for his age) and 52 inches tall (on the taller end of the spectrum). It was loose enough that it didn’t inspire much confidence in me, but then again, it only had to position the seat belt correctly across the thighs and over his shoulder.
The instruction manual consisted of only a couple pages, and half that in a foreign language. I’m used to my car seats coming with an hour’s worth of reading, so that made me a little hesitant, too, especially when I couldn’t find an answer to our question of how tight it needed to fit to make sure we had the correct size.
These harnesses probably work better not squished between two other car seats, because although my son could undo the seat belt, he couldn’t fasten it due to the tight space and awkward angle. When he wasn’t using the harness, the seat belt did remain in the shoulder belt positioner attached to the it, but the seat belt never stayed put underneath the clips across his thighs. We had to redo that portion for every trip. I never got the belt to lay flat inside the lap belt guide, which bothered me, too. They slipped out much too easily for my taste. The Velcro on the shoulder harness which held the seat belt in place also prevented the seat belt from sliding through the positioner. That meant unless I remembered to check each time, the seat belt could have a ton of slack in it while riding.
We ended up having to buckle in our preschooler and our eldest child on every drive, and because of his position in the middle of the row, that made it harder. His elbows went into the face or ribs of his siblings each time he tried to fasten or release his own buckle and we had no shortage of complaints from his siblings as well.
We did get used to it over three weeks of everyday use, and it only made the child using it cry in frustration once. But it never grew easy, unlike other car safety restraints. My son also has no ability to remain in his seat, leaning forward and twisting around and basically parking himself almost in the front row with us. That’s not the fault of the Ride Safe Harness of course, but he certainly can’t do that with booster seats and a five point harness, which is how he rides at home. He can move almost as freely with a belt positioning highback booster, but I feel that the bottom and sides give him some guidance about how far he can safely move (not very far, obviously).
Since we get to keep it for carpooling and other occasional needs like visiting family, it’s worth it to not have to haul the extra booster seat. But I would never use it on a daily basis except for traveling, and even then with caution.