Ford South Africa is proud to partner with #CarseatFullstop, a national child safety seat awareness initiative, created and spearheaded by Mandy Lee Miller.
“We are a team of parents just like you,” says Miller. “We want to make sure that if the worst happens, you know you’ve done every single thing you can to ensure your child is as safe as they can possibly be. Child safety is non-negotiable. You need to strap in your babies every single time you get into a car, no matter what.”
Car seat safety and the Law in South Africa
The law is South Africa states that every person in a car must be as strapped in with a seatbelt or appropriate child restraint. This includes the driver and all passengers, in both the front and rear, of any age or size. It’s illegal to drive with a child under three without an approved car safety seat.
The driver is legally responsible for any child under the age of 14 not using a seatbelt in their car. Sadly, enforcement of the car seat laws isn’t common. A visual survey by the Automobile Association says that a staggering 93% of children aren’t in the seat they need to survive a crash.
Danger of sitting on laps
Your child should never sit on the lap of a passenger in the car, with or without seatbelts. In a crash, or even an emergency stop, the body takes on the weight of the speed you were travelling multiplied by your actual weight. So if your baby weighs 10kg, and the car is travelling at 60km per hour, your baby will take on the weight of 600kg. It is scientifically impossible for you to physically hold onto your child who suddenly weighs hundreds of kilograms.
With the body weight of your child increasing dramatically, and their small size allowing them free motion within the car, in a crash they can easily be ejected through the windows or windscreens. Seventy-five per cent of children ejected from a car during a crash will not survive. The majority of those that do survive will have permanent disabilities.
Even travelling as slowly as 40km per hour, the blow to your unrestrained child’s head on impact with a windscreen, or any other part of the car, can be fatal. And having a seatbelt over you and your child sitting on your lap is no safer. The force against their small body on impact in a crash is equivalent to 1,500kg, or almost 19 men, weighing 80kg each, crushing your child.
Appropriate child safety seats for different stages in your child’s development
There are three different stages of child safety seats your child will need in their lifetime.
Your baby should be in a rear-facing infant safety seat until they are at least 13kg or 75cm. Most babies only reach these limits around 12 months old. Rear-facing seats spread the force of a crash over the larger area of the back… Forward facing, the proportionally big head of a baby is thrown forward placing great force on the underdeveloped neck.
You shouldn’t use a bulky jacket or blanket underneath the harness. This can create a lot of slack between the harness and your baby when the force on impact in a crash compresses the fabric. This can lead to your baby being thrown from their seat and the car. Rather place a blanket or jacket over your baby after the harness is done.
In an ideal world… Your toddler and pre-schooler should be in a rear-facing toddler safety seat until they are at least 18kg or 105cm. This is usually between three and four years old. If you can, invest in one of the two rear-facing seats available in South Africa that can accommodate children up to 25kg or 115cm. If an extended rear-facing seat is not financially viable, a high quality forward-facing seat can do. Look for a seat that offers a decent recline, and easily adjustable headrests and harness. Only once they have outgrown the weight or height limit on their rear-facing seat, should children graduate to a front-facing booster seat.
Your primary schooler needs to be in a full back, belt-positioning booster seat until they are at least 36kg, or 1.5m tall. The booster seat provides guides to safely position the seatbelt on their still-developing body. The lower part of the seatbelt should go across your child’s pelvis, not their stomach. The shoulder belt should sit on their chest and collarbone, and not touch their face or neck. And the chest belt should never be put behind your child’s back or under their arm.
Don’t allow your child to sit in the front passenger seat until they are 13 years old. Their bodies aren’t done developing enough to withstand the impact of a crash in that position. And an airbag activating can seriously damage an underdeveloped body.
Sharing is caring
“You have the power to save a little life,” says Miller. “One share, seen by one person, who straps in one child, could save that child’s life.”
Help this message #GoFurther by spreading awareness far and wide. If you want to avoid a confrontation, pop an anonymous note under their windscreen wiper, pointing them to where they can access more information: carseatfullstop.org
#CarseatFullstop works in close association with Wheel Well, an NPO run by Peggie Mars. Wheel Well collects second-hand seats in any condition. They check to ensure they’re safe. The team cleans and refurbishes the ones that can be are safe, and they responsibly dispose of those that cannot. To find out how to donate that old safety seat gathering dust in your garage, visit: wheelwell.co.za
Driving Skills for Life
Driving Skills for Life (DSFL) South Africa is Ford’s responsible driver training programme. Project Co-ordinator, Eugene Herbert, advises parents who have to rely on a privately contracted children’s transportation service for their kids to choose “trustworthy and properly trained transporters, where your child has their own seat, and safety belt. Teach your child that they don’t have to get in a car where they feel unsafe, and what they should do instead.”