Apr 12 , 2019
If you think your children are safe just because they’re strapped in, think again! Seat Belts are made for ADULTS – not children! Seat Belts are simply TOO BIG for children!
- It is law in South Africa that every motor vehicle must be fitted with SABS approved seat belts/restraints.
- It is law in South Africa that every passenger being transported in a motor vehicle must make use of the seat belts/restraints and strap themselves in.
- It is the drivers responsibility to ensure that all passengers are strapped in.
The current SABS approved seat belt/restraint system uses the three point system with a horizontal (lap) belt and a diagonal ( shoulder ) belt. The horizontal seat belt is designed to pass across the lap from hip to hip.
This belt is designed to hold the passenger in place and prevent the lower body from propelling forward in the event of a sudden stop or accident. It is vital that the lap belt passes across the lap and does not rise up to the stomach or abdomen area or across the legs and especially so with children with an under developed pelvis.
i.e Children under 12 years of age.
The diagonal belt is designed to pass across the center of the shoulder and across the chest. This belt is designed to hold the passenger in place and prevent the upper body from propelling forward in the event of a sudden stop or accident. It is vital that the diagonal belt does not drop off the shoulder and does not pass across the abdomen or even touch the neck.
All seat belts fitted in cars in SA are designed and manufactured and designated as “Adult Restraints” and are therefore totally unsuitable and inappropriate for children less than 12 years of age or under 1,5 meters tall.
In this regard this is what some of the leading car makers have to say about seat belts;
This what Mercedes says in their user manual:
Risk of Injury !
Children less than 150cm in height and younger than 12 years require suitable restraint systems for their protection in the event of an accident as the seat belts cannot be fitted correctly.
This is what Kia says in their user manual:
Restraint of Larger Children
As children grow, they may need to use new child-restraint systems including larger child seats or booster seats which are appropriate for their increased size.
A child who has outgrown available child-restraint systems should use the belts provided in the vehicle.
When seated in the rear seat outboard seats , the child should be restrained using the lap/shoulder belt.
If the shoulder belt portion slightly touches the child’s neck or face, try moving the child closer to the center of the vehicle.
Shoulder belts on Small Children
Never allow a shoulder belt to be in contact with the childs neck or face while the vehicle is in motion.
If safety belts are not properly worn and adjusted, there is a risk of death or serious injury to such a child.
This is what Toyota says in one of their manuals:
Always make sure the shoulder belt is positioned across the center of the child’s shoulder. The belt should be kept away from the child’s neck, but not falling off child’s shoulder.
Otherwise the child may be killed or seriously injured in case of sudden braking or collision.
This is what Car Magazine said in their May 2008 issue:
Volvo’s research indicates that a child should only start using an “adult” seat belt once he/she has grown to a height of 140 cm and the pelvis is fully developed.
As a result of this and because the normal SABS approved seat belt/restraint system is not suitable or appropriate for children , it is law in South Africa that if you transport a small child/baby (under the age of about three or under about 21Kg’s ) the child/baby must be secured in a SABS approved Safety Seat.
A SABS approved baby seat has it’s own built in restraints designed to suit the child and is only effective if integrated into the fitted seat belt system. Once the child/baby outgrows the Baby Seat it then becomes compulsory that the child is strapped in using the standard fitted seat belts.
However herein lies the problem:
It is a known and acknowledged fact that the fitted seat belts in all cars in SA are simply TOO BIG for a child under 12 years of age or under 150cm in height and therefore totally unsuitable and inappropriate for them.
The result of the fact that the seat belts in cars are “too big” for children is that when the child is strapped in the seat belt will invariably pass across their neck or face making them very uncomfortable.
It is obvious and goes without saying just how potentially dangerous it is when the seat belt passes across a child’s neck !
A common and well documented fact is that when the seat belt passes across the child’s neck or face making them uncomfortable the child will invariably either slip their arm out of the shoulder belt and allow the belt to pass under their arms and across their abdomen or even pass the belt behind their back.
When the belt is in either of these positions the belt can be more of a danger to the child than a protection and can result in severe “ Seat Belt Syndrome “ injuries.
“Seat Belt Syndrome” injuries is the name given to the range of injuries motor vehicle occupants receive from the seat belt by the international medical fraternity.
Characteristic “Seat Belt Syndrome Injuries “ include severed intestines , ruptured diaphragms , neck and spinal injuries.
It is therefore vitally important that additional measures are taken to protect and support the child when strapping them in.
What is required of the motorist is to ensure that the seat belt does not pass across or even touch the child’s neck or face and is held in the correct position across the child’s chest.
To achieve this the motorist can “elevate” the child so that their head and shoulders are at the same height as an adults or as if they were an adult thus allowing the seat belt to pass across the center of the shoulder and not touch the child’s neck.
To do this the motorist would need to make the child sit on a booster seat/cushion.
A booster seat/cushion is expensive at about R300 to R700 , very uncomfortable and restrictive , space consuming and quite difficult to install or remove from the car and is only effective if the child is at the correct height and decidedly unpopular with children.
Alternatively you can use a “ Secure A Kid Comfort Harness”
The “Secure-A-Kid Comfort Harness “ is a very effective method of ensuring that the seat belt passes across the center of the shoulder without touching neck and across the chest (where it is supposed to) without having to elevate or boost the child’s height as shown in the picture below.
The Secure A Kid Comfort and Safety Harness is very inexpensive, very comfortable to use , takes absolutely no extra space in a car , takes only seconds to install or remove from the car , and is suitable for all children who have graduated out of the baby seat and smaller adults such as women.
Children find the Secure A Kid Harness to be highly acceptable.
The Secure A Kid Comfort Harness also prevents the child from slipping their arm under the seat belt or behind their back.
At the end of the day it is VITALLY IMPORTANT AND ESSENTIAL that if you transport a child under 12 or less than 1,5 meters tall that you DO SOMETHING to ensure and/or improve the child’s safety. Be it with a Booster Seat or Cushion or a few phone books or a Secure A Kid Comfort.
IF YOU VALUE YOUR CHILD”S SAFETY
DO SOMETHING ! AND DO IT NOW !