Child Passenger Safety week runs internationally from 9 to 16 September
Local studies have indicated that only 7% of South African children are secured in car seats when travelling in a vehicle, resulting in thousands of horrific deaths every year. Despite it being law that every child under the age of three be securely strapped into a car seat, a shocking 93% of motorists, taxi services, bus services and so on flaunt this law, which is not effectively enforced by local and national police.
“Child Passenger Safety week runs internationally from the ninth to the 16th of September, and we at Maxi-Cosi really want to get people talking about the importance of our children’s safety in motor vehicles in South Africa,” says Debbie Bilson, Operations Director for Maxi-Cosi.
“We want to educate and inform South African road users of the dangers of travelling on our roads with children who are not securely strapped into a car seat, as well as ensuring the car seat they use has undergone the minimum crash testing required. Strapping our children into a well secured car seat needs to become something every single one of us do, no matter how short a car trip we are doing!”
Children under the age of three are legally required to be securely restrained in a car seat
While children under the age of three are legally required to be securely restrained in a car seat, standard seat belts in most cars are designed for adult passengers of 150cm and taller, leaving children between the ages of four and 12 requiring additional support in the form of a booster seat.
“Children under 150cm are not safe just being secured by a seat belt, they are physically not developed enough to be secure,” says Bilson. “The lower belt doesn’t fit on their hips, as it is intended to do with adults, and rather ends up around their abdomen, which can result in fatal internal injuries in the case of a crash. The upper section of the belt rests dangerously across their neck, as opposed to being on their shoulder, and can easily break a child’s neck in the case of an accident. A simple booster seat can prevent unnecessary injuries and deaths.”
South African consumers are fortunate to have a large selection of well-tested, reasonably priced car seat options, there is no excuse not to be using one! “The average car seat costs a measly 1% of the value of most cars in SA,” exclaims Bilson.
“For the average lifespan of a car seat it works out to less than R2 per day to ensure your child is safe – there honestly is NO EXCUSE to not be securing your child into a car seat every time they get into a vehicle!”
Here are a list of safety tips to ensure you are using your car seat as effectively and safely as possible:
1. Always use a car seat, even on short trips
It’s obvious, and it’s the law, but we still sometimes see children travelling without a car seat. Accidents can happen, even on the shortest trips.
2. Avoid second-hand car seats
You can never be sure that a second-hand car seat is a safe car seat. You don’t know if it’s been damaged in an accident, or has pieces missing.
3. Use the correct size car seat
It’s best to buy a car seat for your child’s current height and weight, then buy the next size up. Avoid seats that claim to be suitable for all ages in one.
4. Install car seats correctly
- Baby car seats must always be rear facing.
- If you have ISOFIX in your car use an ISOFIX car seat, it’s easy to install the seat to the anchor points.
- If you don’t have ISOFIX you can use a seat belt installed car seat. Make sure you know how to guide the belt correctly and pull the car seat belt tight.
- Pull the car seat safety harness tight. If you can slip just one finger between the harness and your child’s chest, it’s tight enough.
- Read the car seat manual or watch the installation video and follow the instructions carefully.
5. Take your child’s coat off
A thick coat can make the harness less effective. If your child is cold, use their coat as a blanket over the harness.
6. Make sure the safety harness is at the right height and not twisted
The harness should be at shoulder height. Check there are no twists in the straps.
7. Use a rear-facing car seat for as long as possible
It’s safest for babies and toddlers to stay in a rear-facing car seat until they are at least 15 months old. It doesn’t matter if their legs stick out, but if their heads are higher than the seat shell, they need the next size.
8. Beware of activated frontal airbags
The safest place for a rear-facing car seat is on the back seat, passenger side. This avoids the danger of front airbags inflating against the seat. Deactivate the front airbag if you use your car seat on the passenger seat and place this seat in the rearmost position.
9. Keep loose items off the rear parcel shelf
In an accident, even small loose items can turn into dangerous projectiles. Tuck them away safely.
For more information about Child Passenger Safety Week, please visit https://www.facebook.com/childpassengersafetyweek/