Children who are properly restrained in automobiles have a better chance of surviving an accident.
THERE were 23.8 traffic deaths per 100,000 people in Malaysia in 2009, which was a statistical improvement over previous years, such as in 1997 when it was 29.1 per 100,000. This improvement is encouraging and Malaysians should be thankful, but the rate is still far higher than in other countries. For instance, the traffic death rate in the United States was 11.5 per 100,000 people in 2009; less than half of the rate in Malaysia.
Unfortunately, some traffic deaths involve children. According to the World Health Organisation, 21% of all road traffic injury related deaths worldwide in 2004 involved children and two thirds of them occurred in South-East Asia.
Traffic injuries are the leading cause of death of children between the ages of 10 and 19 years and are predicted be the fifth leading cause of death worldwide by 2030. Furthermore, for every child who dies from a traffic injury, it is thought that about 250 will need treatment at a hospital and four will become permanently disabled.
Children who are properly restrained in automobiles are safer. There is a 50% reduction in the risk of becoming critically injured or dying when safety belts are used properly by front seat passengers. The rate of injury and death is reduced even more for children when they are properly restrained while riding in automobiles.
In addition, for every 100 children who die in automobile crashes, at least 80 would survive if they were properly secured in the vehicle.
The rate of correct use of child safety restraints varies around the world, from nearly 90% in the United States to almost no use in some low-income countries. The use rate in Malaysia is not known for certain, but one can clearly see that it is low. Children can commonly be seen in moving automobiles standing totally unrestrained or sitting on a passenger’s lap, although it is not possible to maintain holding a child even in low speed collisions.
There are currently no laws in Malaysia regarding the use of child safety seats and the Malaysian Institute of Road Safety Research provides very little information on the subject. Nonetheless, the value of properly used child safety seats in reducing injury and death in children is indisputable.
Past experience in various regions of the world has shown that it is usually not enough to merely educate drivers about the importance of protecting their child passengers.
Legislation, together with strict enforcement, is necessary to bring about change. Hopefully a child safety seat law will be passed in Malaysia very soon, but until then, parents will have to take matters into their own hands and protect their children.
Purchase child safety seats that are designed for the size and age of each of your children.
After buying a child safety seat, it is important to carefully follow the manufacturer’s instructions on how it should be used, because misuse is common. Child seats must be secured properly before each trip.
n Prof Michael Haneline is head of the Chiropractic Department, International Medical University.
1. Infants should ride in the back seat in a rear-facing child safety seat until they reach the height or weight limit of the particular seat; at least until they are one year old or weigh 9kg.
2. When infants outgrow the rear-facing seat, they should still ride in the back seat but in a forward-facing child safety seat until they reach the height or weight limit of the particular seat; typically until the child is four years old or weighs 18kg.
3. When children outgrow the forward-facing seat, they should ride in booster seats in the back seat until the vehicle seat belts fit them properly – typically at eight years old or when they are 145cm tall. Seat belts are considered to fit children properly when the lap belt lays across the upper thighs and the shoulder belt fits across the chest.
4. When children outgrow their booster seats, they can use the adult seat belt as long as it fits properly as described above. Children should continue to ride in the back seat until they are 13 years old.
The recommendations above identify four categories of child safety seat use and the general ages, heights and weights that children should be in order to be included in each category. The child’s weight is the most important consideration, but bear in mind that the manufacturer’s recommendations will likely be somewhat different from these recommendations.
Another important way to protect children automobile passengers is to ensure that adults wear safety belts because children are commonly killed or injured in motor vehicles crashes from being crushed by unrestrained adults.
This problem is bigger than what most people think. In fact, 25% of serious injuries that occur to passengers are caused by occupants who are thrown into each other.
If you don’t protect your own child, who will?