National statistics indicate that 84 percent of children in South Africa travel in cars without wearing seatbelts. At the Red Cross Children’s Hospital alone, approximately 20 children are treated for injuries sustained in motor vehicle collisions every month. Eighty percent of these injured children were not buckled up or restrained in the vehicle in any way at all (CAPFSA Reported, September 2007).
A SABS approved, age appropriate, car seat is essential from your baby’s very first trip. Babies are more vulnerable than older children or adults, should you have to bring your vehicle to a sudden stand still or be involved in an accident. The reason for this is the proportionally large size of their heads, making an unrestrained baby fly like a missile if the car comes to a sudden stand still.
How to choose the right car seat
There are numerous different car seats manufacturers in South Africa. The size and type of seat must be chosen with your baby’s weight and age in mind.
It is of utmost important to ensure that whatever car seat you choose, has got the SABS stamp of approval.
Types of car seats
Infant only seats
Made for babies up to 10kg’s (Snug and Safe is an example). The seats are installed in the backseat, facing the rear of the car. This allows the back of the car seat to protect an infant even more. Babies younger than a year should remain in rear-facing seats, even if this means that their weight requires the purchase of a new car seat. Car seats should never be placed on the front seat in vehicles with airbags, as the airbag could push the baby against the back of the seat and suffocate him during an accident. Infant only seats often double as carriers and rockers are very convenient to use.
Made for children from birth to 19 kg’s. They can be placed in the backseat in a rear-facing position until the child is one and then rotated to face forward. It is important to note that it is always the best to have children sit in the rear-facing position until they reach the weight allowed by the seat for use in the front-facing position.
Convertible seats have two different belt paths, one for use when the seat faces the rear and another for use when the seat faces forward.
Made for children between 19 and 37 kg’s and should be used after a child reaches the maximum weight allowed by a convertible seat. In most cases a child will begin using a booster seat sometime after turning 4. These seats are designed to serve as a bridge from when a child is too big for a convertible seat but not yet big enough to wear a safety belt.
Important information on car seats
Once the car seat is fitted into your motor car, it should not move more than 2cm when pushed or jerked forward.
Consideration should be given to the following:
How well it is padded to ensure side impact protection;
How easy the seats install and remove from your car;
How easy it is to adjust the straps and to remove and wash the cover
When strapping in your child bulky clothing should be removed – rather cover your child with a blanket over the straps. Bulky clothing might compress during an accident, causing your child to slip through the straps.
Once your child is trapped in, you should not be able to slide more than 3 fingers between the child and the strap.
Check your car seat regularly for wear and tear damages.
Replace your car seat if you have been in an accident, even a minor one.
Be very careful for choking accidents when allowing your child to eat or drink in the car.
When you arrive home and your child is sleeping in the car, NEVER leave your child in the car unattended.
Keep children busy in the car by listening to music and singing along