Transport deaths are one of the leading causes of unnatural deaths in children in South Africa. According to an AA study, only 7% of children in private cars who should be in a car seat actually are buckled up in one.
Did you know that every child under 1.5m tall, or between the ages of 10 and 12 years should be in a car seat to increase their chances of surviving a crash?
South Africa has some of the most dangerous roads in the world. It was said at the 2018 ITF Summit that Africa has 2% of the world’s cars, but 20% of road deaths. A car seat reduces the risk of your child dying by up to 71% and the need for hospitalisation by 69%.
While many families realise that children need car seats up to the age of around four years, there is a dramatic fall in awareness thereafter.
Your child needs three different car seats in their lifetime, says #CarSeatFullstop:
- An infant seat that should be used up to 13kg or 75cm that’s specially designed to hold and protect your baby at his most vulnerable.
- A toddler seat, with a five-point harness, up to 18kg or 105cm (there are four seats in South Africa that go to 25kg or 115cm).
- And finally, a full back booster seat, with special guides to keep the car’s seatbelt flat and smooth diagonally across the chest, midway between the shoulder and neck, and low over the upper thighs or pelvis. These seats should be used until your child is 1.5m tall, or between 10 and 12 years old on average.
Each seat is designed to protect a child in a specific stage of development. You can find the maximum weight and, sometimes, height, on the orange sticker on the shell of the car seat.
Crash dynamics don’t discriminate. If you are in a car, you are subject to all the forces of a crash. For example, when a car crashes or stops suddenly, your weight is multiplied by the speed you were traveling at. A seat belt is designed to fit an adult male of 1.5m or taller. As an adult, the seat belt catches you and all that weight and distributes the crash force to the strongest points of your body – across your shoulder, diagonally across your chest and across your pelvis.
So, let’s look at that in terms of a 15kg child in a car travelling at 60km/h when someone jumps a stop street and you slam on brakes to avoid hitting them. In that moment, your child weighs 900kg. If your child is not restrained in any way, all 900kg are going to be projected through your car and, in all likelihood, ejected through one of the windows.
An emergency responder from a recent Ford Driving Skills for Life event shared that when they arrive at an accident scene where there is a car seat or a “Baby on Board” sign on the car, they instantly call in the dog squad. Children are found as far as 150m away from the car. Seventy five percent of children ejected will not survive; and those who do are usually handicapped for life.
If a child under 1.5m tall is using the car’s seat belt, without the support of a full-back seat belt-positioning booster seat, the seat belt will distribute the full force of weight to his underdeveloped neck and unprotected belly. This can result in seat belt syndrome, which includes a wide variety of serious injuries.
In addition to positioning the seat belt safely, the full back provides side impact protection and support for the head and neck. A full back booster is so important because it protects your child from the seat belt and from the forces and debris of a crash.
For your child to be completely ready to use the car’s seat belt without the assistance of a booster seat, he needs to be able to meet all the criteria of this five-step test:
- Can he sit with his back against the back rest and legs flat on the seat?
- Do his knees bend over the edge of the car’s seat, and can his feet rest flat on the floor?
- Does the shoulder belt sit smoothly and diagonally across the chest, between neck and shoulder?
- Does the lap belt sit low across his thighs or pelvis, away from his belly?
- Can he remain comfortably seated in the above position for the whole trip?
Ensuring your child is properly secured in the right seat for their weight, height and stage of development, and the seat is properly installed in your car; is the difference between life and death.
Join the #CarseatFullstop Facebook group here for judgement free advice on which car seat your child should be in.
For more information on car seat safety, including tips and tricks, and common mistakes we have all made, go to carseatfullstop.org.
Xanet is an award-winning journalist and Living and Loving’s digital editor. She has won numerous awards for her health and wellness articles and was a finalist for the Discovery Journalist of the Year in 2009 and again in 2011 for the Discovery Best Health Consumer Reporting and Feature Writing category. She is responsible for our online presence across social media channels and makes sure our moms have fresh and interesting articles to read every day.