I have received many questions on the safety of the Secure a Kid harness, the Mifold Grab and backless booster cushions. These products have recently passed crash testing, which is a step in the right direction. We, as car seat advocates, are always very clear… You should never ever buy anything to use with or instead of a car seat that is not crash tested.
Does the crash test mean the Secure a Kid and Mifold Grab are safe?
The basic crash test, the ECE R44-04, proves that these items do not interfere with the way in which the appropriate safety feature (the car seat or seat belt) performs in a crash. So, yes, they are safe for use in that way. BUT, this in NO WAY makes them an alternative or replacement for a proper high back booster seat.
Let’s roll it back for a minute. Every child under 1.5m tall, 36kg, between 10 and 12 years old, needs to be in the correct car seat for their height, weight and stage of development to survive the forces of a crash.
There are three stages of car seats… The infant seat (up to 75cm or 13kg). The toddler seat (either up to 105cm or 18kg OR up to 125cm or 25kg)… And the full high back seatbelt positioning booster seat (up to 150cm and 36kg).
Each of these seats is designed and built to provide your child with support and protection, through the seat’s shell and specialised padding, specifically for their body’s stage of development. This is why we strongly advise against seats that claim to provide protection for children from birth to 10 years old – the protection needs of an infant and those of a 9 year old are too different for any one chair to deliver sufficiently.
The Secure a Kid, Mifold Grab n Go and backless booster cushions are missing the most critical elements of a car seat, regardless of stage – there is no shell or panels or padding to absorb the violent forces of the crash.
This is not to say that the backless booster kind of seats have no purpose.
A car’s seatbelt is designed to evenly distribute the forces of a crash across the strongest points of an adult male body of 1.5m or taller. The strongest points of that fully developed adult body are the shoulder and chest and the lap or pelvis. On a child under 1.5m tall, the seat belt sits across the vulnerable and undeveloped neck and throat and across the unprotected belly and major organs.
So in a crash, when the seatbelt does its job of catching the body and distributing that force, the neck and belly take that impact. If the repercussions of that aren’t immediately clear, you can look up “seatbelt syndrome”.
Backless booster cushions
The backless booster or booster cushion simply lifts your child to bring them closer to the 1.5m height needed to safely use the seatbelt. There are often no positioners to keep the chest belt safely away from the neck. Some backless booster seats have lower horns/handles to keep the lap belt positioned below the tummy. Besides not offering any side impact protection, there is also no support for a child who falls asleep.
Until recently, basic crash testing of car seats only required front impact testing. But as far back as 2010, independent crash testing found the backless booster to be insufficient protection. Independent crash tests have been doing side impact protection for many years. Backless booster cushions, including the Mifold, get a zero safety rating from independent consumer body, Which? due to the complete lack of side impact protection they offer.
Secure a Kid and Mifold Grab n Go
While a backless booster cushion lifts the child up to the correct height, these products reposition the seatbelt itself. In the reviews I have found on these two products, they seem to help in positioning the belt away from a child’s vulnerable areas.
The Secure a Kid has not been independently tested, but considering the fact that it has no shell whatsoever, it is safe to say it would not pass. The Mifold rates “poor” in forward impact and “fail” in side impact in independent testing. The testing is for something diffferent to seatbelt safety though.
The law in South Africa
South Africa has no laws in place to protect children over 3 years old in cars. Safety standards internationally are constantly evolving. The most recent update in Europe has moved the legal standard for backless booster cushions to a minimum of 22kg or 125cm. The recommendation remains that you keep your child in a full high back booster seat until they are 1.5m tall. Your child should also only use the seatbelt without assistance when they can pass the 5-point safety test.
But you said they DO have a purpose?
Backless booster seats and products that have at minimum passed basic crash testing have their place on the South African market.
- Many older South African children have to use public transport, Uber or some form of school transport. These products will at least protect your child from the seatbelt, so they are safer than nothing at all.
- If your child is over 125cm AND over 22kg, your centre seat has a full 3-point seatbelt and you have to fit 3 car seats in the back. The centre of the back seat is technically the safest position in the car. The thought behind being able to use a non-car seat in the centre is that having two full car seats on either side will provide some level of side impact protection.
- If you have just realised your child should be in a booster seat and you need something until you can save enough for a full high back booster seat.
- If you are traveling within South Africa and are unable to take your proper full-back booster seat.
Axkid, BeSafe, Cybex, Maxi Cosi and Recaro have safe independently crash tested full back seatbelt positioning booster seats.
About the Author
Mandy Lee Miller is the creator and director of the #CarseatFullstop initiative. She is recognised as one of two car seat experts in South Africa. Manydy works closely with the other expert, child road safety NPO Wheel Well Director, Peggie Mars. A mom of one beautiful little girl, she is passionate about children and safety. Alongside #CarseatFullstop, she has a popular parenting blog, a small online parenting magazine, co-owns a women’s only Facebook group and is a professional freelance writer, editor and brand consultant.
Mandy on #CarseatFullstop
#CarseatFullstop is one of the leading sources of information on car seats and car seat best practice in South Africa. The #CarseatFullstop platforms provide a safe non-judgemental space for parents to seek answers to keep their children safe. We only recommends seats we believe are 100% safe for our children. We will never promote a seat that has any marks against it on safety grounds on any platform.
#CarseatFullstop began because I didn’t want to be “that” mom. The mom that shakes her head, tuts and moves on with my life. I did the research and the list of things that can happen is horrifying. Car seats save lives. Not using a car seat puts your child, your baby, and everybody else in the car at risk. I partner with other parents, sharing what I know to support them… And they in turn share what they learn… We at #CarseatFullstop is essentially a large group of parents just like those we are trying to reach… We didn’t know how many things we were getting wrong… And now that we do, we want to help others.
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