From Safe To Hazardous

3 min read
Seat belts that turn into choking hazards? Although it sounds crazy, it can happen if your child is not using the right car seat.

It was recently reported that a young girl in Singapore was almost strangled by a car seat belt. The belt was firmly entangled around her neck and her father could not remove it! It kept getting tighter because the automatic locking retractor (ALR) was activated. Thankfully, the father managed to borrow a knife from a nearby hawker centre to cut the belt and save her life.

This wasn’t an isolated incident.

In 2009, a five-year-old boy in Maryland, USA, ended up in critical condition after a similar situation. In May 2018, a nine-year-old girl in Colorado, USA, found herself trapped by the seat belt while attempting to exit the car.

This function locks the safety belt in place while tightening it to avoid any slack. This mode is meant to be used when installing a child safety seat, to keep it securely in place.

ALR mode is engaged when the entire shoulder belt is pulled out of the belt connector and released — you should hear a ratcheting sound as the belt slips back into the connector. The belt can now only get shorter, not longer. To disengage ALR, allow the seat belt to retract back into position.

Parents and guardians must do their part to ensure that seat belts do not become hazards. Children should only use the car seat belts by themselves if they meet the minimum height requirement. If a child is not tall enough but sits in a car without an appropriate car seat, the seatbelt may end up across his or her neck. Incorrectly worn seat belts can cause serious injuries in the event of an accident.

In Singapore, the law states that passengers below 1.35m in height must be secured with a child restraint or system to supplement the seatbelt or adjustable seatbelt. But not everyone complies with this.

Researchers from KK Women’s and Children’s Hospital have found that more than one in two children in motor vehicles who have had road traffic injuries were not restrained at the time of the incident. The use of child restraints — child car seats, booster seats, seat belts — has been shown to reduce the incidence of death in road traffic accidents by 50–70%. Children up to three years old who were appropriately restrained in the back seat had lower odds of neck, back or abdominal injuries compared to those who were not appropriately restrained or who were placed in the front seat.



  • Ensure shoulder belts are buckled and in locking mode (pull the seat belt all the way out, then tighten so the seat belt lays flat against the seat) to prevent your child from playing with them.
  • Teach your children that seat belts are not toys.
  • Secure your child seats firmly to the car. If you need advice on installation, write to us at
  • Keep a seat belt cutter handy, just in case. They are available for purchase in the AAShop.