Buckle up your kids this fes­tive sea­son

The type of car seat you have and where and how you place it in your ve­hi­cle could be the de­cid­ing fac­tor be­tween life and death, writes Marchelle Abra­hams.

Sunday Tribune - - FAMILY -

DID you know that less than 7% of South African chil­dren are trans­ported in car safety seats? Since July 2015, by law all South African chil­dren below the age of 3 and trav­el­ling in a ve­hi­cle have been re­quired to be in a child seat. But how many kids have you seen stand­ing be­tween the front pas­sen­ger and driver seats or wav­ing at you from the back seat of the ve­hi­cle they’re hap­pily bob­bing around in.

Why are par­ents flip­pant when it comes to their chil­dren and road safety?

“In many in­stances, chil­dren are sit­ting in the front pas­sen­ger seat with­out seat belts, stand­ing in the car while it’s mov­ing or, at the very least, are not in an age, weight and height-ap­pro­pri­ate car seat,” the Au­to­mo­bile As­so­ci­a­tion (AA) of South Africa said when re­leas­ing their re­port in 2016.

But the wit­nesses to the tragic re­sults of not buck­ling chil­dren up prop­erly are paramedics who come across ac­ci­dent scenes at which deaths could have been pre­vented.

“Just last week, our paramedics were called to an ac­ci­dent where they found a child sit­ting on their par­ent’s lap,” says ER24.

“They don’t re­alise that they are do­ing the wrong thing and put­ting their child in dan­ger.”

Car seats can re­duce the risk of death by as much as 71%, but they have to be in­stalled and used cor­rectly, ac­cord­ing to Safe Kids World­wide.

Re­cently, paramedics re­sponded to a tragic col­li­sion in Kemp­ton Park in which two chil­dren, 8 and 5, were killed. Mirac­u­lously, a 6-month-old baby girl was found alive in bush nearby still in her car seat.

So in the in­ter­ests of child safety, we sought out ex­pert ad­vice.

Neonates and in­fants should be re­strained in a rear-fac­ing car seat, suit­able for their weight un­til they ex­ceed weight/ height lim­i­ta­tions, usu­ally at around 1 to 2 years old or 9kg, ad­vised Dr Robyn Hol­gate, ER24’S chief med­i­cal of­fi­cer.

“This is to avoid the risk of a cer­vi­cal spine in­jury should they be in an ac­ci­dent.”

A rep­re­sen­ta­tive for Net­care Hospi­tal Group says as a rule their hos­pi­tals don’t al­low new par­ents to leave the premises with­out first check­ing their car is fit­ted with a safety seat for in­fants.

The mis­take that many par­ents make is to place the car seat ei­ther on the left or the right side of the back seat. But a 2015 study pub­lished in the jour­nal, Pae­di­atrics, showed that a new­born to 3-year-old sit­ting in the cen­tre rear seat is 43% safer than sit­ting on the side at the back.

The study also found that the most com­mon lo­ca­tion in the ve­hi­cle for a car seat was the rear pas­sen­ger side, with 41% of par­ents put­ting their child’s car seat there.

The prob­lem with ve­hi­cles man­u­fac­tured in SA is that they only have Latch (lower an­chors and teth­ers for chil­dren) for the two side seat­ing po­si­tions in the back seat. If this is the case, par­ents can use the seat­belt to in­stall the car seat in the cen­tre po­si­tion, notes saferide4kids. com.

Tod­dlers should be se­cured in for­ward fac­ing car seats ap­pro­pri­ate for their height and age. With some car seats, it’s a mat­ter of con­vert­ing a for­ward-fac­ing seat with a 5-point har­ness and top tether.

Your child may need a for­ward­fac­ing car seat with a har­ness that has a higher weight or height limit be­fore mov­ing to a booster seat.

Chil­dren seated in a booster seat in the back seat of the car are 45% less likely to be in­jured in a crash than chil­dren us­ing a seat belt alone, says Safe Kids World­wide.

AA spokesper­son Ley­ton

Beard stresses the im­por­tance of strap­ping a child in a booster seat, say­ing “if a child is 1.3m or shorter, the seat pro­vides ad­di­tional lift”.

A school-go­ing child should re­main in a booster seat un­til the age of 5 to 12 or a height of 1.4m. This is to en­sure the car’s seat belt fits ap­pro­pri­ately over their chest and thighs.

“If the child is not in a booster seat, the seat belt will go over their tum­mies and cross over the neck.

In the event of a crash, if not boosted, that seat­belt will go over the tummy and neck area (flesh). But in a booster, the seat belt crosses over the hips and shoul­ders (bones) – pro­vid­ing ad­di­tional sup­port.”

When your child is seated in the booster seat, make sure the lap and shoul­der belts fit.

The seat belt must lie flat across your child’s chest, on the bony part of the shoul­der and low on the hips or up­per thighs.

Be sure to buy a booster seat from a rep­utable dealer, adds Beard, “as you don’t want some­thing that is not go­ing to work”.

Chil­dren who are tall enough to wear an adult seat belt should still ride in the back seat un­til they are 13. Ad­just the seat belt so the lap belt crosses the child’s up­per thighs and the di­ag­o­nal belt crosses the up­per chest at a point be­tween the neck and shoul­der.

Hol­gate warned that a car seat should al­ways be se­cured into the car us­ing the man­u­fac­turer’s rec­om­men­da­tions. But most im­por­tant, chil­dren should not sit in the front seat.

“There has been a sig­nif­i­cant re­duc­tion in deaths of chil­dren in mo­tor ve­hi­cle ac­ci­dents since we’ve in­tro­duced ad­di­tional car safety fea­tures and ad­di­tional child safety fea­tures.

“These guide­lines have been re­searched and proven ben­e­fi­cial to lit­tle peo­ple in ac­ci­dents,” he added.


A 2015 study pub­lished in Pae­di­atrics showed that a new­born to 3-year-old sit­ting in the cen­tre rear seat is 43% safer than sit­ting on the side at the back.


Booster seats are the link be­tween a car seat with a har­ness and a seat belt alone.


Your child may need a for­ward-fac­ing car seat with a har­ness that has a higher weight or height limit.

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