A newer child car restraint, the travel vest, may prove to be a suitable alternative to the bulky car seat. Learn more about how they can protect your child.

What is a travel vest and how can it keep my child safe in a car accident?



Every year, over 120,000 children suffer severe injuries in car collisions. As a result, the need for education and proper use of car seats and restraint systems has become a priority for parents and traffic safety organizations alike. In fact, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has performed multiple studies on car seat safety and how to protect delicate children’s frames from collision forces. In one of these studies, research included data from the somewhat recent safety restraint system known as the travel vest.

How a Travel Vest Works

A harness or safety travel vest is a restraint system that relies on belt placement and impact distribution to help alleviate collision forces from harming your child. It is constructed with a rigid back that safely attaches to the seat as well as safety holders to attach the vehicle belts. It uses a five-point harness—much like a five-point car seat—to distribute crash forces across a child’s entire chest, not just specific impact points. The design is similar to roller coaster harnesses that go over the shoulders to secure the entire upper body to the seat. In addition to being more comfortable and convenient than a car seat, a travel harness also provides added safety measures such as:

  • Lowering the belt to the proper position. As with any car seat restraint system, the basic design is to raise the child up in order for the vehicle’s seat belt to fit across the body properly over the collarbone and hip bones. Rather than raising the child with a clunky car or booster seat, the vest brings the seat belt down to the child’s level and holds the seat belt in place.
  • Lowering the child’s center of mass. Since the vest allows the child to sit directly on the seat instead of elevating him to reach the belt, his center of mass is placed closer to the vehicle’s center. A lower center of mass can decrease risks of lower extremity injuries while also allowing the impact force to distribute across stronger areas that are less likely to break allowing for a safer distribution of force when hit.
  • Lowering distributed impact force. The vest’s foam inserts absorb crash energy from the seat belt and distributes it across the entire vest. This lessens the pressure your child will feel as well as prevents excessive pressure from breaking bones.

Travel vests are certified for children who weigh over 30 pounds and are over 3 years of age. They shouldn’t necessarily replace a child’s five-point car seat, but they can be used as a secondary restraint system for short car rides or to eliminate the need to transfer a car seat from one vehicle to another. 

Still unsure about how to protect your child from potential car accident injuries? Browse our car accident library for more information and safety tips. For more information on your legal options following an accident, contact us directly with your specific concerns and learn how we can help you and your family with your recovery.