Did you know that every child under 1.5m tall, around 10 years old, needs to be in a car seat to survive a crash? South Africa has some of the most dangerous roads in the world. The 2018 ITF Summit that Africa says 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 the need for hospitalisation by 69%.
10 years old
While many families realise that children need car seats up to the age of around 4, there is a dramatic fall in awareness thereafter. Yet the body of a child under 10 years old is still growing and developing, and still needs additional protection from crash forces.
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 a few seats in South Africa now that go to 25kg).
And finally, a full-back seatbelt-positioning 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. Your child needs a full back booster until he is 1.5m tall (until at least 10 years old on average).
Each seat design is 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 forces 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 multiplies 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.
So, let’s look at that in terms of a 25kg 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 of only 10 years old weighs 1,5000kgs. If your child is not restrained in any way, that 1,500kg is going to be projected through your car and, in all likelihood, ejected through one of the windows.
Call in the dog squad
An emergency responder from a 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. They find children 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, which is usally 10 years old at least, is using the car’s seat belt, without the support of a full-back seatbelt-positioning booster seat, where does the seat belt sit? Remember, the seatbelt 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. Seatbelt syndrome is a very scary reality.
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.
The 5 step test
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 at least 10 years old (in terms of physical development) AND be able to meet all the criteria of a 5 step test.
1. Can they sit with their back against back rest and legs flat on the seat?
2. Do their knees bend over edge of car’s seat, and their feet rest flat on the floor?
3. Does the shoulder belt sit smooth and diagonal across the chest, between neck and shoulder?
4. Does the lap belt sit low across the thighs or pelvis, away from belly?
5. Can they remain comfortably seated in the above position for the whole trip?
Ensure your child is in the right seat for their weight, height and stage of development and that the seat installation is solid. It 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.
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.