CAR SAFETY FROM PREGNANCY TO BABY TO TODDLER TO CHILD - 4aKid Blog
DID YOU KNOW?… SOME FACTS
- National statistics show that 84% of children in South Africa travel in cars without wearing their seatbelts.
- Passenger deaths in children are the 4th leading cause of unnatural deaths in our country (Medical Research Council) Not to mention all the injured children that suffer injury or disabilities on a daily basis.
- At the Red Cross Children’s Hospital alone, approximately 20 children per month are treated for injuries sustained in motor vehicle collisions. Eighty percent (80%) of these injured children were not buckled up or restrained in any way at all. Most of these injuries could have been prevented through appropriate restraining.
- Car safety seats (child restraints) reduce the risk of death in passenger cars by 71 % for infants, and 54 % for toddlers.
- Even in a minor crash, an unrestrained child would be thrown around inside the vehicle, injuring themselves and others. They could be thrown from the car through one of the windows
WHAT DOES THE LAW SAY?
- Legislation stipulates that everyone in a motor vehicle should wear a seatbelt.
- It is the driver’s responsibility and legal obligation to ensure that children are buckled up in a car safety seat (child restraint) or seatbelt where available.
- An adult is guilty of a criminal offence if he/she should allow a child younger than 14 years to travel unrestrained in a motor vehicle equipped with seat belts or car safety seats.
- Never put your seat belt around yourself and your baby or child. If there is a crash, your baby or child could be crushed to death. The force against your child will be the equivalent to 30 adults, each weighing 50 kg, standing on top of the child. The force is tremendous.
- Never buckle two children up in one seatbelt, this is dangerous and could lead to serious injury. A seat belt has only been tested with one occupant.
- Travelling unrestrained at the back of a station wagon or “bakkie” is very dangerous.
- Never use a car safety seat/child restraint on the front seat if there is an airbag.
- Always place any loose items in the car boot.
HOW CAN I KEEP MY CHILD SAFE IN THE CAR?
- The safest way for children to travel in cars is in an approved car safety seat or seat belt that is suitable for their weight and size and also for your car.
- A properly fitted child restraint keeps the child in their seat, preventing them from being thrown about inside or ejected from the vehicle. This reduces the likelihood of your child being killed or injured in a crash.
- Using a car safety seat correctly makes a big difference.
- All children under twelve years and younger should preferably travel in the back seat, buckled up!
- Putting your child in a seatbelt, instead of in a car safety seat or booster cushion, before he/she is big enough, will put his/her life at risk of serious injury or death in a crash.
WHY BUCKLE UP?
- It is not safe to carry your baby in your arms or a child on your lap in the car. Some parents believe they will be able to hold on to the baby or child. Research has shown that passengers have less than half a second to react in a collision or sudden stop.
- When a vehicle collides or suddenly stops at 50-60km per hour the weight of occupants or objects in the vehicle multiply 30 - 60 fold. If a baby weighs 10kg the force at the moment of impact is equivalent to a weight of 300kg. No adult will be able to hold onto the baby or child. They would be thrown about inside the vehicle, injuring themselves and quite possibly seriously injuring (or even killing) anyone else inside the vehicle. They are also likely to be ejected from the car through one of the windows.
- At 25km/hour 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/hour the blow to a child’s head is the same as dropping him/her from 6 meters onto concrete.
Always set a good example by wearing your seat belt!
With so many options and things to consider when choosing your baby’s first car seat, it can feel a little daunting knowing where to start. So, we’ve done the hard work for you in finding out what you need to know and how to ensure your baby is buckled up safely while travelling.
Whether you’re buying or hiring your baby capsule or baby car seat, it’s a good idea to choose one before your baby is actually born for the simple reason that you’ll need it to bring your baby home safely from hospital. And, be sure to allow plenty of time to try out the many different types. Baby car restraints vary in design and some are easier to use than others. Also, not all car seats fit all cars. Some cars, especially older cars and commercial vehicles, may require modifications or special accessories to fit a car restraint correctly. The following guide provides you with everything you need to know from choosing the right type of baby car seat for your vehicle, the important things to consider and look for when buying or hiring a car seat and how to ensure you correctly install and use your car seat.
Things to consider:
When choosing the type of car seat for your baby, there are many things to consider. While this list isn’t exhaustive, here are some of the essential things that are specific c to your family’s needs to help get you started:
- Most importantly, try the car seat in your vehicle beforehand as not all car seats fit all vehicles. And, if you have a second vehicle, don’t forget to check it in that one, too.
- Check if the car seat restraint fits comfortably in the car without it pushing against the back of the front seat.
- Check there will be sufficient space for other passengers – i.e. another child in the back seat or other child car restraints.
- Check there is sufficient space around the baby capsule or car seat to allow you room to lift your baby and/or the seat in and out of the vehicle.
- Do you prefer the convenience of a carry baby capsule? Or a baby convertible seat which is less portable but can be used until your child is older?
- If opting for a baby capsule, check if it works with a base or belt system. A base is permanently anchored to the car seat so you can get the capsule in and out of the car more easily. Capsules without a base are simply belted into place using a safety belt.
- Does the capsule click into your pushchair or fit a capsule stroller? Some capsules are also designed to snap onto a set of capsule wheels to create a pram.
- Does the car seat have removable padding? For very young babies it is reassuring to have lots of padding to keep them feeling snug and safe, but as your baby grows, you’ll want to remove it so there is more space.
- How many children are you planning to have as this can help determine whether it is more cost-effective to hire or to buy?
- Consider also if you are likely to be changing your vehicle in the short-term as to what type of seat you choose – do you hire a seat in the short-term until you have your new vehicle?
If you’re buying second-hand, it’s important to find out the history of the baby car seat and to know the age of the restraint as manufacturers have a maximum life for car restraints of around 6-10 years.
Make sure you check the car seat thoroughly before you buy including trying it in your vehicle. Check the harness straps are in good condition without any fraying and that the buckle is rust-free and that it works properly. And, don’t forget to obtain the instruction booklet, too!
Hiring a car seat
Plunket’s Car Seat Rental Scheme provides baby, convertible and child restraints for hire. To find a scheme nearest you, visit Plunket online at www.plunket.org.nz or check your local White Pages. Plunket Car Seat coordinators are also all Safe2Go trained and can help you choose the right car seat for your baby as well as discuss and demonstrate how to use it correctly.
Installing & using your car seat
All baby car restraints are designed to have your baby face the rear of the vehicle. Plunket recommends babies travel in a rear-facing position until at least 12 months old as it is better for your baby’s neck, spine and head and is safer in accidents – your baby will be supported by the back of the car seat. Both a baby capsule and convertible car seat allows you to do this.
Never place a rear-facing car seat in the front seat where airbags are fitted as the force of them deploying can make the car seat fly towards the back of the seat. If your vehicle has airbags, put the car seat in the back seat.
Baby capsules and convertible baby car seats are fitted to the vehicle by the vehicle’s seat belt and some use a tether strap. The tether strap attaches to an anchor bolt or fitting in the vehicle. Kneeling in the car seat as you tighten the safety belt can help to maintain a secure fit. Using a locking clip on the safety belt can help it stay secure.
Once the seat is fitted correctly, it should hardly move at all – if it’s loose and moves easily then it’s unsafe. Go back and tighten the safety belt again. If the seat still wobbles around, you may have to try another position or another model of the seat.
Make sure the harness is firm against your baby, going over the shoulders and coming through the slots level
with, or just below, the top of the shoulders. A good way to check is by sliding your first two fingers under the shoulder harness. The harness buckle must be ‘clicked’ shut. Also check the straps and safety belts are not twisted or frayed.
Put your baby’s bottom well back in the car restraint. Your baby’s head should be below the top of the car seat. As your baby grows, the harness can be moved up so that it is level with, or slightly below, your baby’s shoulders when rear-facing. The chest tie, if provided, should be at armpit height.
Every time you use the car seat, ensure the harness is adjusted to fit your baby as snugly as possible – babies grow very quickly! Always keep the instruction book in the car so you can check how to adjust it as your baby grows.
If covering your baby with a blanket when in the car seat, fasten the harness first and then place the blanket over top – never under the harness!
What is ISOFIX?
Some restraints can be installed in vehicles using a system called LATCH or ISOFIX. This system has brackets or a rod in the crease where the back of the vehicle seat meets the flat vehicle seat. The restraint will have connectors that can connect onto these brackets or rod. Usually, a symbol on the vehicle seat and/or information in the vehicle handbook will tell you whether your vehicle has these features. If both your vehicle and the restraint have ISOFIX or LATCH you can choose to install the restraint this way rather than using the vehicle safety belt.
- Always follow the instruction manual to ensure your baby is getting the best protection.
- Try the restraint in your vehicle before you buy or hire it; it needs to fit your baby and your vehicle. Some car seats install differently to others and instructions with the seat can also differ.
- Ensure your baby’s car seat is always rear-facing.
- The back seat is the safest place; never the front seat if there’s an airbag.
- To keep your baby safe check the harness is firm against your baby, blankets are over the harness and not under it, and the car seat sits tightly on the vehicle seat.
- If you’re unsure about choosing and/or installing a seat, check with a Safe2Go technician.
When the top of your baby’s head reaches the top of her car seat or her weight is over the recommended maximum weight for a rear-facing seat, then it is time to move up to a bigger seat.
The longer your baby is in a backwards-facing seat, the safer your baby will be.
Ten Basic Rules:
- Kids 12 and under should ALWAYS ride in the back seat. This cuts their risk of death by 36%.
- Kids should be in a car seat or booster until they can be seated properly in a seatbelt. For most kids, this is around 8 years old or 4' 9" tall, but proper seatbelt fit is the most important factor.
- Never place a rear-facing car seat in the front seat when there is an active frontal airbag.
- Keep your baby rear-facing as long as possible. That can mean up to 35 or 40 pounds in most current convertible seats unless they outgrow it by height first.
- All current car seats pass government safety standards. Select the one that best fits your child, your vehicle and your budget. Some models do have different features; select one that has the features that will allow you to use it correctly EVERY trip.
- Always read the owner’s manuals for your vehicle and car seat thoroughly. They often contain specific information about car seat installation that may not be obvious. Some models may vary from what you would expect.
- Make sure that the harness fits snugly on your child, the car seat fits snugly in your vehicle, and that your vehicle seatbelts are locked properly.
- When you buy a car seat, make sure you have a good return policy in case it doesn't fit or in case you find you don't like it. Have your seat inspected by a certified technician for free at a check-up event or fitting station.
- Please be wary of used car seats, especially those over six years old, those with an unknown history that may have been in a crash, those that show any form of cracks or damage, and those with missing labels, model number, manufacturing date, instructions or parts.
- Please give driving your complete, unimpaired attention and wear your own seatbelt all the time. These two simple steps are among these easiest ways you can protect yourself and your passengers from injury or death.