Children under the age of 3 are legally required to be strapped into a car seat. Yet, 93% of motorist flout this law. Buckle up no matter how short the journey.
There is no protection for an unrestrained child during a car accident. Having an adult holding a child is not enough. In a crash at a speed of 50 km/h, a child’s body weight increases by around 30 times.
Debbie Billson, Operations Director for Maxi-Cosi, the driving force behind Child Passenger Safety Week launched six years ago, says parents need to be aware of the dangers of not strapping children into a car seat.
Here are a list of safety tips to ensure you are using your car seat as effectively and safely as possible:
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. Many children are taken on trips of less than 3km without being strapped in, therefore, if unrestrained, an impact can prove fatal from speeds of 20km/h. In the event of an accident when a child is not restrained by a safety device, the risk of being ejected from the car is 6 or 7 time greater.
Use the correct size car seat
Buy a car seat for your child based on their current height and weight. Investigate and consider all your options when buying a seat that claims to cover multiple age groups.
Install car seats correctly
- Group 0 or Car seats for babies under 1 year or 80 cm in height must always be rear facing.
- If your car has ISOFIX Points, you can select any car seat with either an ISOFIX connection or opt for a seat that uses your car’s seat belt. ISOFIX Systems provides increased safety by eliminating human error when the seat is installed in the car.
- 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 safety harness tight. If you can just slip 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.
- Both forms of installations options are safe as long as they are installed correctly, Isofix however does offer more safety but preventing incorrect installation over the seat belt option.
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.
Make sure the safety harness is at the right height and not twisted
The harness should always be adjusted to the correct height setting which is at shoulder height. Check there are no twists in the straps. Incorrect height placement of the harness often results in children unbuckling themselves, escaping from the seat, head flops and potentially the harness could slip off during a collision.
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. Up until 15 months, the baby’s neck is not yet developed enough to withstand the impulsive force of an average frontal collision because of its relatively heavy head. The excessive pressure on the neck of the baby might lead to serious neck injuries. When travelling rearward facing, the forces of a frontal collision are better spread over a greater area of the body of the baby, which leads to less pressure on the head and neck.
Beware of activated frontal airbags
The safest place for a rear-facing car seat is on the back seat. This avoids the danger of front airbags inflating against the seat. Deactivate the front airbag if you use your car seat on the front passenger seat and place this seat in the further most position.
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 visit https://www.facebook.com/childpassengersafetyweek/