Safe ride

Chil­dren who are prop­erly re­strained in au­to­mo­biles have a bet­ter chance of sur­viv­ing an ac­ci­dent.

The Star Malaysia - Star2 - - PARENTING - By MICHAEL HANE­LINE

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.

Safety rules

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?

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