Despite constant progress in terms of vehicle safety, road
traffic accidents still represent the number one causes of fatalities amongst
children under the age of 10.
Regardless of it being law that every child under the age of 3
be securely strapped into a car seat, a shocking 93% of motorists, taxi and bus
services flaunt this law, which is not effectively enforced by local and
national police. The majority of injuries, through car accidents, are due to a
complete lack of any kind of child safety restraint.
An adult holding a child in their arms provides absolutely no
protection in the event of an accident. In a crash at a speed of 50 km/h, body
weight is increased by around 30 times. For example, a child weighing approximately
30 kg turns into a projectile weighing a ton. At the point of impact, no-one is
capable of restraining them. The strength of the impact is equal to falling 3
“Child Passenger Safety week runs internationally from the 7th
to the 11th 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 Billson, 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
While children under the age of 3 are legally required to be
securely restrained in a car seat, standard seat belts in most cars are
designed for adult passengers 150cm and taller, leaving children between the
ages of 4 and 12 years old 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 sit 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 Billson. “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
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. 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.
2. Avoid second-hand car seats
You can never be sure 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 or
has been misused in any way.
3. Use the correct size car seat
It’s best to buy a car seat for your child based on their
current height and weight. Investigate and consider all your options when
purchasing a seat that claims to cover multiple age groups. Your child
must travel in a car seat that is the appropriate size for them. This will
ensure adequate safety for your child if you are ever involved in the
unfortunate instance of a collision
4. 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 car seat’s safety harness tight. If you can just
slip one finger between the harness and your child’s chest, it’s tight
- 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.
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 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.
7. Use a rear-facing car seat for as long as
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. The neck of a child matures with age, and not when it reaches a
certain stature or mass. 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.
8. 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.
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.
Photo credits: Denis
Article courtesy of Arrive Alive under Road safety highlights