Do you have a squirmy worm riding in a booster seat? Is your 6 year old half way across the back seat, but still buckled into their booster? Do you tell your child in a seat belt to "sit still" a dozen times a car ride and it doesn't seem to work?
For many kids, the solution is as simple as putting the seat belt into a special locking mode (in technical terms, engaging the automatic locking retractor).
**Please note: If your child is 4 or younger and/or locking the seat belt does not keep them sitting still, then we would strongly recommend the child ride in a 5 point harness that is certified for bigger kids (i.e. the harness goes to at least 60 pounds).
Almost all shoulder belts have a retractor. The retractor is the device that not only spools the excess belt, but also locks the belt so that it holds you tight in a crash.
If your car is a 1996 or newer, the retractor is usually a switchable retractor - meaning that it can switch from the usual mode of locking only in an emergency, to a mode where it locks at all times - called the automatic locking mode. Changing the belt from the emergency to automatic locking modes is easy - simply pull the shoulder belt out all the way (do it slowly) - when you get to the very end, let the belt go back in. As it goes back in you will likely hear a ratcheting sound - and if you give a gentle pull you will notice that the belt is locked.
In the automatic locking mode, the shoulder belt only gets shorter - it does not get longer. Meaning, you can not lean forward to pick up your toy or fight with your sibling on the other side of the car. With the belt in the automatic locking mode, the seat belt holds tight at all times just like the child was used to when they were riding in a 5 point harness car seat.
Some cars do not have a switchable retractor. Most Jeep, Chrysler, and Dodge vehicles do not have switchable retractors - they only have the emergency locking retractor. Other vehicles that may not have a switchable retractor are some vehicles made by GM, Ford, Saab, and Volvo.