We’ve just entered the 2nd month of the New Year and New Year’s resolutions are already a distant memory. That said, if you are a parent or a caretaker of an infant and/or a toddler and you have to transport them in your car, even if it’s on a rare basis (yes Grandparent’s, we’re looking at you), then 100% child safety in your car is a resolution you need to make – and stick too!
According to the AA, less than 10% of South African families use child car seats. Ethical choices aside, since the 1st May 2015, the South African Department of Transport deemed it illegal to have a child under the age of three unrestrained in your vehicle. Children under the age of three must be strapped into a SABS approved car seat. This legislation does not apply to minibus taxi’s and conventional buses.
STEP 1 – GET A CHAIR!
The Medical Research Council has reported that car crashes are the leading cause of death in children under the age of five. Arrive Alive reports that correctly installed car seats can reduce the risk of deaths by 70% in the infant age, and 47% to 54% in children aged one to four. Ask yourself then, how daily in traffic we are still seeing toddlers standing on front seats or on the laps of adults?
Whilst the film quality in the above film might look old to you, the laws of physics don’t change with time. If you didn’t watch the above short film, consider this: when a vehicle collides or suddenly stops at 50-60km/h, the weight of occupants or objects in the vehicle multiply 30 – 60 fold. If a baby weighs 10kg, the force on impact is equivalent to a weight of 300kg. No adult will be able to hold onto the baby or child. At 25km/h a small child sitting or standing next to the driver can be killed in an emergency stop if its head hits the windscreen/interior of the car. At 40km/h the blow to a child’s head is the same as dropping him/her from 6 meters onto concrete.
STEP 2: GET THE RIGHT CHAIR!
Most children only reach the height and weight requirements to use a seatbelt without a booster seat around the age of ten. Until then there are many options available, from budget brands to exclusive, high-end variant car seats. Car seats have weight and height limits, so it’s vital that parents read the maximum weight and height restrictions of their car seat/booster and not use it beyond the maximum weight/height for each group. It is not safe to use a harness beyond its weight/height limit as there is a high risk of it failing in a crash.
Still feel the budget brands are not affordable? We don’t recommend buying 2nd hand car seats – unless you are a professional, it’s difficult to tell if the core structure of the car has been compromised. If it has, it renders the chair effectively useless in a crash scenario. Honourable organisations such as Wheel Well can aid disadvantaged families with sound car seats.
Tip: Always research online if the brand and/or product you are about to buy has been recalled in other countries around the world. If it has, we recommend you move on and look for an alternative product.
STEP 3: INSTALL AND USE IT CORRECTLY.
From birth, it is advised not to use a seat where there is an airbag as this can cause serious injury. The seat should be rear facing always to ensure that in a collision impact will be on the seat and not on the baby. Installation instructions are freely available to ensure proper fitment of the seat. It is also imperative to ensure baby is securely held in the seat by the harness. You need to reset this each and every single time you drive. A good harness fit means that you should be able to just squeeze your finger under the chest strap. Another way of looking at it is, after strapping your child in your usual way, would you be able to turn the seat upside down safely? The safest place for the child seat is in the rear of the car, behind the driver. There are various facts and stats as to when you can forward face your car seat, as a general rule of thumb, rear face them for as long as possible.
STEP 4: REPEAT STEP 2 – YOUR CHILDREN CHANGE AS THEY GROW, SO SHOULD YOUR CHILD SEAT
Once your child has outgrown their traditional car seat, a booster seat is a great option and fits easily into the car with a three-point seatbelt. It ensures the correct fit of the seatbelt across your child’s torso and avoids belt contact with the neck.
Final tip: We don’t recommend asking the salesperson at your local baby shop to show you how to install the chair – they are not trained safety professionals. Rather reach out to the manufacturers themselves. We’ve also found Car Seat Support South Africa to be a useful group on Facebook.
Being entrusted with the life of a baby or young child is a monumental responsibility not to be neglected. Do your part to lower the death rate in the below five age categories and ALWAYS make sure your most precious cargo is properly secured. If we all become advocates of child car seats, that 10% can soon turn into 100%. Let's make it happen!
Legal notice: The views expressed in this article are that of THE TORQUE’s only. We are not trained safety professionals. The intention of the article is to raise awareness of a serious issue and provide broad guidance to families and guardians. For more information on child restraints and road safety, visit this page on arrivealive.co.za