Car seat arguments seem to pop up wherever I go (it’s not me, is it?!) There are some incredibly smart people that think it’s exaggeration to say a car seat can save a child’s life. Some believe their car will protect their family. Or that they drive safely, so their children are not at risk. I have had parents pull up next to Evie (our branded Ford Everest) and very loudly comment to the child that the only reason they aren’t in their car seat is because they live “just up the road”. And, a common one, families who are out in the country where there are very few cars around, feel a car seat is unnecessary.
I’m sure many of you have been in car seat arguments with someone who challenges the importance of car seats. Some of you may be people who wonder about these things. I’m “the car seat lady” and I have close, intelligent friends and family who roll their eyes at me. Too often, the car seat arguments are within a family – with one parent or family member consistently neglecting to strap the kids in safely.
Transport accidents are the leading cause of non-natural death in children in South Africa. This is in large part because only 7% of our children in private cars are in car seats. (It may also be because children are often in the wrong seat for their height, weight and developmental stage… Or the seat isn’t being used as it should be safely. The information parents receive when they purchase a car seat isn’t always clear. But one issue at a time…) As it’s October Transport Month (#OTM2018), I’m sharing some facts you can use to respond to car seat arguments.
How to respond to common car seat arguments
Car seat arguments – Car seats aren’t really necessary, it is just a money-making scheme.
When a car crashes or slams on brakes, the body takes on the weight of the speed you were travelling multiplied by your actual weight. If your baby is 10kg and you’re driving 60 kmph; in a sudden stop your baby weighs 600kg.
With the body weight of a child increasing dramatically, and their body size allowing them free motion within the car; a child can be easily ejected through the windows or windscreens.
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. 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.
At 40km per hour the blow to your unrestrained child’s head making contact with any part of the car is the same as dropping them from 6 meters (a second story balcony) onto concrete.
A car seat reduces the risk of your child dying by up to 71%. It can also reduce the need for hospitalisation by 69%.
Car seat arguments – I can hold onto my child in a crash
Think again on the crash dynamics and the weight of a child in a crash… You are holding your 3kg newborn and hubby is only driving 50km per hour… (Because we all do when they are so tiny.) Suddenly a child runs in front of your car and hubby has to slam on brakes. In that moment, your baby will weigh 150kg.
Physics research has shown that passengers have less than half a second to react in a collision or sudden stop. And that instinct makes you throw your arms forwards in an effort to brace yourself. Even if those stories of crazy parental insticts are true and you resist letting go of your child to brace yourself… It is scientifically impossible for you to hold onto a child that suddenly weighs hundreds of kilograms in an accident, within the less than half-second you have to react.
And then, if you use a seatbelt over you and your child? You will crush your child to death as the momentum hurls you forward into the seat belt. The force is the equivalent of 30 adults, each weighing 50 kg (1500kgs or an entire rugby team) standing on your child at once.
A car seat is designed to absorb the forces of a crash, through the installation, the special plastic of the shell, the shock-absorbing foam and the padding. The harness then distributes the remaining force equally, while catching that weight of the child. A rear facing car seat takes this a step further, by distributing the forces of a forward-on crash across the full back of the seat, as opposed to the body of the child.
Car seat arguments – I drive a very safe car
Cars are safe for adults. Seat belts evenly distribute the forces of a crash to protect an adult male of over 1.5m tall. Airbags are an incredible safety feature, but the force and impact of an airbag can critically injure or kill a child. Children are not just smaller versions of adults. Their bodies are not finished growing, their bones are not fully formed and hardened to protect their developing organs as ours are.
A car seat surrounds your infant or toddler in a protective shell, as in the point above. Without a proper full back seat belt positioning booster seat, the car’s seatbelt will do what it does… Transfer the crash forces, on an adult, to the strongest points of the body – across the shoulder, chest and pelvis. On a child under 1.5m tall (between 10 and 12 years old), the belts sit across the underdeveloped neck and unprotected belly. Your car may be the safest on the road, but to protect your child, you need to use a car seat that is made with their safety needs in mind.
Car seat arguments – I am a very safe driver
The leading causes of road deaths in South Africa are speeding, distracted driving and drunk driving. South Africa has the worst rate of drunk driving and drunk driving related deaths in the world. As many as three out of four people drive under the influence of alcohol. (World Health Organisation, 2015) a quarter of car crashes in South Africa are directly related to cell phone usage (ITF Road Safety Annual Report, 2018) A single use of a cell phone is an average of 52 seconds of distracted driving. At 60km per hour, this is the same as driving “blind” for one kilometre and increases the likelihood of a crash by four times. (Discovery Insure Driver Challenge)
You can reduce the chance of some of the damage done in a crash by driving slowly and being aware of those around you. But there is nothing you can do about the other people on the road around you. The drunk driver, returning a quick text while driving too fast won’t look up in time… or he won’t be able to avoid you or slow down fast enough…
Car seat arguments – It is “just up the road”
Studies all over the world have proven that the majority of car accidents happen close to home. Studies vary on the exact percentages, but they all agree that it is undisputable. Around half of crashes happen within 8km and more than 75% within 25km. So “just up the road” means nothing. The same reckless distracted drivers are on the roads around your home. And we go into “auto-pilot” in familiar surroundings; never more so when we are refereeing squabbles in the back seat.
Car seat arguments – We are out on the farm / in the country, there are no other cars on the road
Are there people? What about animals? Potholes? Rivers that overflow? At only 25km per hour a small child sitting or standing next to the driver, between the seats or on the front seat, can be killed outright in an emergency stop if their head hits the windscreen or any other part of the car.
The only thing you can do to truly protect your child is put them in the right car seat for their weight, height and stage of development. Make sure that you install the seat properly and that you strap your child in safely. And most importantly, make sure you use it every single time you get into the car with your child.
Highlighted car seats
BeSafe iZi Go X1 (From newborn up to 13kgs/75cm, usually around 1 year)
Every baby under at least 6 months old, needs a dedicated rear facing infant car seat. The BeSafe iZi Go X1 can install with the car’s seat belt or on an ISOfix base (sold separately). ISOfix is not safer than installing the seat with the car seat belt, but it does add convenience. It also helps to ensure there are no installation mistakes. The iZi Go X1 has an adjustable headrest and harness and a 5-point harness to keep your baby safe until they are either 13kg or 75cm.
BeSafe iZi Combi X4 (From 13kgs up to 18kgs/105cm, usually around 4 years old)
The BeSafe iZi Combi is one of the best seats in the BeSafe range. You should never move your baby from their infant seat until at least 6 months old. Ideally, wait until your baby outgrows their infant seat at either 13kg or 75cm. The iZi Combi is based on the award-winning BeSafe iZi Kid in rear facing mode. It allows you to keep your child rear facing right up to 18kg or 105cm, between 3 and 4 years old. The iZi Combi installs with ISOfix when used rear facing. Unlike the iZi Kid, which is exclusively rear facing, the iZi Combi also forward faces for those who cannot keep their children rear facing.
BeSafe iZi Plus (From 6 months up to 25kgs/115cm, usually between 5 and 6 years old)
The BeSafe iZi Plus was the chosen car seat of #CarseatFullstop in 2017. This high quality exclusively rear facing car seat allows you to keep your little one rear facing in a 5-point harness up to 25kg/115cm. The iZi Plus requires a fair amount of space in your car, so not all cars will allow installation. It installs with the car’s seat belt and lower anchor belts and doesn’t need ISOfix. My almost-5 year old is still happily in hers.
The competition is closed.