As a parent, your first thought in a motor vehicle accident is about the safety of your child. But many parents do not use car seats properly. 1 out of every 4 parents admits to not buckling up their children on every single car trip.
Road accidents are the leading cause of death in children under five years old in South Africa. A child is twenty times more likely to die on our roads than anywhere else in the world. If car seats are used safely and correctly, many of these deaths can be avoided.
Car seat use reduces the risk for death to infants by 71% and to toddlers by 54% in passenger vehicles. Booster seats reduce the risk for serious injury by 45% for children aged between 4 and 8 when compared with seat belt use alone.
Using car seats properly will make the difference between life and death in an accident. A one-time lapse can result in a lifetime of regret.
Here are some important car seat safety tips:
- Buy the best. Invest in the best car seat you can afford. Beware of bargains, old and secondhand car seats. They may have some unseen damage. If you buy a secondhand seat, make sure it has the original instructions, all its parts, and hasn’t been in a serious accident or recalled. Stick with car seats that are fewer than five years old.
- Double-check. Always double-check the car seat’s label to ensure it’s the right one for your child’s age, weight and height.
- Look back. Keep your child rear-facing for as long as possible – at least until the age of 2 or until they reach the seat’s maximum rear-facing height and weight limits.
- Harness seats. Your child should ride in a safety seat with a five-point harness until they weigh at least 18 kgs (i-Size 18.5kgs), or until their shoulders no longer fit under the harness straps.
- Booster seats. Your child should ride in a booster seat from the time they weigh 18kgs and are 4 years old, and until they are 1.50m tall and are 8-12 years old.
- Check for movement. Make sure your seat is installed correctly and check that the car seat does not tip forward or slide from side to side more than an inch. Boosters must be secured with a lap-and-shoulder belt.
- Snug as a bug. Make sure your child is secured in the seat properly by ensuring that the car seat harness straps are snug enough to hold them firmly in the event of an accident.
- Buckle up. Buckle your child in, making sure the harness straps are not twisted, and use the mechanism to pull the harness tight. You should not be able to pinch any harness fabric between your fingers.
- Buckle down. When you’re putting your child in their seat, double-check to be sure that the seat is buckled tightly to the car. Forward-facing safety seats come with a strap so you can tether the seat to an anchor point in the car for extra protection.
- Lead by example. Set a good example by always wearing your own seat belt.
- Help others. If you see someone driving around with their children not in a car seat or safely buckled up, call 0861 400 800 with the car’s license plate and the date. The Road Traffic Management Corporation will send them a warning letter. It could save a child’s life.
What to do if you are involved in a motor vehicle accident with a child:
- Request assistance using Namola. Response Center Agents will arrange that the relevant emergency services arrive at the scene using your phone’s GPS capabilities. Make sure you know what information is needed by EMS during an accident.
- Accept medical help for your child and yourself. Your child needs to be seen by a paramedic, and you might need to be treated so that you can take care of them.
- Be vigilant in the weeks following your collision. Take your child for any necessary follow ups.
- Replace child car seats after the accident. Even if your child was not in the seat at the time, the forces of the crash can cause issues with the construction of the seat that are invisible to the naked eye. If you do not replace the car seat and an issue occurs, the seat may not be viable in the event of another crash.
Car accidents are terrifying experiences, especially for parents. Make sure that your child is in a car seat, buckled up and that all safety precautions are taken to give your family the best chance should you be involved in a crash.