Photo Credit: #CarseatFullstop.
The holiday season is looming. #CarseatFullstop is reminding families that every child under 1.5m tall, between 10 and 12 years old, still needs to be in a car seat to survive 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 world's cars but 20% of road deaths. A car seat reduces the risk of your child dying by up to 71% and reduces the need for hospitalisation by 69%.
Up to what age must a child be in a car seat in South Africa?
While many families realise that children need car seats up to the age of around 4, there is a dramatic fall in awareness thereafter.
Your child needs three different car seats in their lifetime. An infant seat that should be used up to 13kg or 75cm, specially designed to hold and protect your baby at their most vulnerable. A toddler seat, with a 5-point harness, up to 18kg or 105cm (there are 4 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 (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 context, when a car crashes or suddenly stops, your weight is multiplied by the speed you were traveling. 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.
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So, let’s look at that in terms of a 15kg child in a car travelling at 60km/h. Someone jumps a stop street and you slam on brakes to avoid hitting them. In that moment, your child weighs 900kgs. If your child is not restrained in any way, that 900kg is 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 if they see 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. 75% of children ejected will not survive; and those that 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, where does the seat belt sit? Remember, the seat belt by design distributes the full force of the crash… in the case of a child, to their underdeveloped neck and unprotected belly. A child’s body is only finished developing, with their organs safely protected by the ribcage once they are older. Seat belt syndrome is a very scary reality.
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.
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For your child to be completely ready to use the car’s seat belt without the assistance of a booster seat, they need to be able to meet all the criteria of a 5 step test:
- Can they sit with their back against back rest and legs flat on the seat?
- Do their knees bend over edge of car’s seat, and their feet rest flat on the floor?
- Does the shoulder belt sit smooth and diagonal across the chest, between neck and shoulder?
- Does the lap belt sit low across the thighs or pelvis, away from belly?
- Can they 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 that the seat is properly installed in your car; is the difference between life and death. Please join the #CarseatFullstop Facebook group here https://www.facebook.com/groups/CarseatFullstop/ 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 www.carseatfullstop.org.
Transport deaths are one of the leading causes of non-natural deaths in children in our country. An AA study says that only 7% of children in private cars that need car seats to survive a crash are in car seats. With 93% of our children not in car seats, we all know somebody who isn't strapping their child in... One share, seen my one parent, who straps in one child, saves a life. #CarseatFullstop. Every child. Every time. No matter what.