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Road traffic accidents are the number one causes of fatalities in children under the age of 10. Many of these were the result of a complete lack of any child safety restraint in the vehicle.

Every child under the age of three should be strapped into a car seat – that’s the law. Yet, 93% of motorists, taxi drivers and bus services drive without any child safety restraint.

“We want to educate and inform road users of the dangers of travelling on our roads with children who are not strapped into a car seat,” says Debbie Billson, operations director for Maxi-Cosi, who has been the driving force behind Child Passenger Safety Week for the past seven years. “The car seat they use must have undergone the minimum crash testing required.”

Clicking in

Child Passenger Safety Week runs internationally from 17 to 23 September. “’Love clicked in is this year’s theme,'” Billson says: “Clicking our children into a well secured car seat needs to become something every one of us does, no matter how short the car trip.”

In a crash at a speed of 50km/hour, body weight is multiplied by around 30, says Billson. So, a child weighing about 30kgs would turn into a projectile object weighing 900kgs. “At the point of impact, no one is capable of restraining (that weight).”

A recent study conducted by Arrive Alive found that seatbelt usage is much lower in central city business districts. This may be because drivers in low-speed environments think there is no need for restraints. However, the Red Cross War Memorial Children’s Hospital treats an average of 20 children every month injured as passengers in a vehicle.

Safety first

Children under three are legally required to be securely restrained in a car seat. From the age of four, children need additional support in the form a booster seat as standard seat belts in most cars are designed for adult passengers. “Children under 150cm are not safe just being secured by a seat belt,” says Billson. “The lower belt doesn’t sit on their hips, as it is intended to do with adults. Instead, it 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. In an accident, this can easily break a child’s neck. A simple booster seat can prevent unnecessary injuries and deaths.”

Read more about car seat safety

There’s a selection of tested car seats available for children. “The average car seat costs only 1% of the value of most cars in SA,” notes Billson. “For the average lifespan of a car seat it works out to less than R2 per day to ensure your child is safe

Six myths about children’s safety in vehicles

Myth 1 – It’s safe to place a car seat in the front passenger seat

Fact – The backseat is the safest place for a car seat. Avoid placing car seats in the from passenger seat, especially if it has an active airbag.

Myth 2 – I don’t need to buckle my child if we are only going a short distance

Fact – Car crashes can happen anywhere, even on short trips. Regardless of the distance, always use a child safety restraint.

Myth 3 – My child can use an adult seat belt when they reach a certain age

Fact – Children should use a booster seat until they can properly fit in an adult seat belt, typically when they reach a height of 150cm.

Myth 4 – One car seat fits all age groups

Fact – Select a car seat based on your child’s current height and weight to ensure proper safety and protection in case of a collision.

Myth 5 – The height of the safety harness doesn’t matter

Fact – Adjust the safety harness to the correct height to prevent a child from unbuckling themselves or suffering from head flops in a collision. The harness should be at shoulder level.

Myth 6 – Rear-facing car seats are only for infants

Fact – Rear-facing car seats are safest for babies and toddlers up to at least 15 months old. The extended rear-facing position helps distribute collision forces and reduces the risk of neck injuries.

Myth 7 – Children can wear thick coats in car seats

 Fact – Bulky coats can compromise the effectiveness of the harness. Use the coat as a blanket over the harness to keep your child warm.

Read on to find more information about Child Passenger Safety Week.