Understanding Vehicle Features Made Before 1996

    Published: 06-16-2009
    Views: 13,039
    Stephanie Tombrello with SafetyBeltSafe U.S.A. points out safety considerations and features on vehicles made before 1996.

    Stephanie Tombrello: Hello, I am Stephanie Tombrello, Executive Director of SafetyBeltSafe U.


    A. and I am here to talk to you about how to protect your children in the car. Now I would like to talk to you about some of the features of vehicles made before 1996, which might impact how you would protect your child. First we want to know that these cars often have lap belts in the back. Some of them also have shoulder lap belts, but this is the kind of belt that is very nice for installing a car seat. This bar inside the buckle is what holds the seat or the person tightly. When you tilt the buckle like this, you can see it slides easily, but when you put the buckle at the angle that you would buckle it in the car, I can pull as hard as I want and it will not move, as soon as I tilt it, it gets longer.

    So for a car seat, we will put it through the car seat and as long as the angle is correct, you will get a very tight fit. This particular shoulder lap belt that I am wearing, also allows a good fit with the car seat, because it has the same locking latch plate at this point that will hold the car seat in, but many cars made in this timeframe have safety belts which cannot be manually locked. They only lock when the car is in a crash or sudden stop. It's the motion of the car that locks the belts. That's fine for people, but it doesn't work very well for car seats, because the car seats can tense themselves and get prepared when the car is going to stop and they simply slide around or fall over.

    You will notice that there is very little support in the back seat for my body and particularly for my head or neck. So there would be a real risk of flip lash. With an older child in a car like this, if you were trying to use a booster seat without a back on it you would - although you have a shoulder lap belt to use with the booster seat, you would not have support for the child's head and back, because they will be sitting up higher. Therefore, in this type of seat you will want to use a booster seat with a back on it.

    Finally, in the front seat you will notice there are no air bags that can be seen as an advantage if you have a full car of children, because you don't have to worry about the air bag in the front, but obviously it doesn't give the kind of protection for adults and teenagers as having both the passenger and a driver's air bag. A really important part of protecting your child is learning what you have in your vehicle and this book, the owner's manual is a good place to start. Right in the beginning there will be information about where there is material about safety belts and safety seats for children and when you go to that section you will find all kinds of information.

    In this car you can put a tether anchor for your child who is sitting forward facing in a car seat, and so, we encourage you to do this, because it makes a big difference in protection in a crash or even in a sudden stop. This is the page, and this one, that shows where in the car the tether anchor is and how the dealer should put it in for you. Now we are going to go on and talk about the features of vehicles made between 1996 and 2002.