The ex­perts agree: The safest place for a child in a car is in a prop­erly fit­ted seat. Here’s our guide to choos­ing the right one

Friday - - Leisure Charts -

It’s a lovely day out, the sun’s shin­ing and your fam­ily’s head­ing out on a road trip – you’ve stocked up on food, ex­tra clothes, sing-along songs and wa­ter – ev­ery­thing you need to keep your kids en­gaged and happy. But does your car have the one thing that can pro­tect them in the event of a crash – a child car seat?

Start­ing July 1, if you haven’t al­ready, you will have to add a car seat to your list. That’s when the new seat belt law is­sued by the Min­istry of In­te­rior comes into ef­fect. Not only will all back­seat pas­sen­gers have to buckle up, but it will be manda­tory for all chil­dren un­der four to be strapped into child car seats. Chil­dren un­der 10 must be in the back­seat, with seat­belts.

The big­gest ben­e­fit of this law, says Dubai’s Roads and Trans­port Au­thor­ity (RTA)

‘They’re NOT BIG ENOUGH to fit a reg­u­lar seat and there will be a gap be­tween their shoul­ders and the seat belt. In the event of SUD­DEN brak­ing, there is a good chance that the child will FLY through the gap’

is ‘en­sur­ing the safety of chil­dren.’ Sta­tis­tics re­leased by Dubai Po­lice re­veal that 105 chil­dren were in­jured in road ac­ci­dents in 2016; if good road safety prac­tices haven’t nudged you into buck­ling up the kids, this wor­ry­ing num­ber of causal­i­ties should.

Thomas Edel­mann, founder of Road Safety UAE (RSU) tells Fri­day how, of 454 par­ents RSU sur­veyed, only 66 per cent used child seats and booster seats. Not all of them re­mind their chil­dren to fas­ten the re­straints.

This is a dan­ger­ous prac­tice, the RTA told Fri­day: ‘Child re­straints are de­signed to re­duce in­jury. Wear­ing a prop­erly ad­justable lap and shoul­der seat belt re­duces the risk of [in­jury from] a se­ri­ous or fa­tal ac­ci­dent by 50 per cent.’ So why did that 34 per cent of par­ents sur­veyed by the RSU skip us­ing car seats? Be­cause they found them too ex­pen­sive – or their kids didn’t like to be strapped in.

Ox­ana Kim, mum to two-year-old twins Mark and Klim and one-year-old El­iza­veta doesn’t think chil­dren should have a say in the mat­ter. ‘Some things you can­not ne­go­ti­ate with the kids. When­ever it comes to safety and se­cu­rity, they have to obey and fol­low the rules be­cause we are the par­ents and they have to fol­low us.’ When her en­tire fam­ily trav­els, it’s a tight squeeze in the car with three kids and three adults but even then Ox­ana en­sures they’re all in car seats.

Jenny Holser, mum of one-year-old Alexan­dra, doesn’t think rest­less­ness is a valid ex­cuse. ‘There’s never any ex­cuse not to put your kid in a car seat. When [Alexan­dra] was teeny-tiny she didn’t care. When she got a bit older she didn’t like be­ing in it. But she’ll be in a car seat un­til the age of eight or nine.’

Ide­ally, kids should be in car seats un­til age 12 (or a height of 145cm), ex­plains Nisar Goar, Babyshop’s head buyer. ‘Un­til then, they’re not big enough to fit a reg­u­lar seat and there will be a large gap be­tween their shoul­ders and the seat belt, which means in the event of sud­den brak­ing there is a good chance that the child will fly through the gap.’

Parental love might drive you to be­lieve that there is no safer place in the car for your chil­dren than your lap or arms, but re­search proves that it is, in fact, the most dan­ger­ous

place for them in a mov­ing ve­hi­cle, even if the adult is belted in, ex­plains Thomas.

‘Your child could be ripped from your arms by the force of a col­li­sion. Your weight could crush your child to death – at the speed of just 55 km/h, the rel­a­tive weight of your child in an ac­ci­dent equals that of an ele­phant; you won’t be able to hold on. Also, airbags are not con­structed for kids and their force can cause se­ri­ous in­jury and death to kids on our laps.’

Sim­ply, your chil­dren are the safest they can be in a ve­hi­cle when strapped into ap­pro­pri­ate car seats.

‘Car seats are specif­i­cally de­signed to fit smaller bod­ies of chil­dren [and] re­strain the child with­out ap­ply­ing dan­ger­ous force to the body,’ the RTA says.

That said, a lot of par­ents – 25 per cent ac­cord­ing to the RSU’s sur­vey – don’t know which child seat or booster cush­ion to buy. There are hun­dreds of va­ri­eties with nu­mer­ous fea­tures, mak­ing it a chal­lenge for new par­ents. Babyshop’s Nisar, who has been buy­ing for the Dubai-based com­pany for decades, helped us put car seat se­lec­tion into a sim­ple, easy-to-un­der­stand guide.

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