When dealing with horrible subjects, it is better for the storyteller to not get too graphic, but to let the reader connect the dots. Here are two dots regarding car seats and children.
Dot 1: Hospital Emergency Room staff often refer to children sitting on an adults’ laps in cars as ‘airbags’.
Dot 2: At 60km/h the 20kg child standing between the front seats will briefly weight 600kg until she is stopped by the windscreen.
And yet we all see a child sitting on mommy’s lap or standing on the backseat. Some of you actually do this. How do I know? A recent survey by Arrive Alive found that 84 percent of children are not strapped into the safety or booster seats they need to survive a crash.
“Not me”, you say. “I don’t use a safety seat, but I use the seatbelt for him.”
Sorry, not good enough. If the child is too small, the seatbelt itself can cause injury, disability or death. Seatbelts can be worn when the child is around 9 – 11 years old, at least 1.5m tall and weigh at least 36kg. The child’s knees must bend naturally at the edge of the seat and their feet must touch the floor. The seatbelt must go across the shoulder and over the chest, not against the neck. The part going over the lap must fit against the pelvis, not the tummy.
Three-point seatbelts are better than lap belts, but lap belts are better than no belt.
Safety seats are like prams: you can pay for all the bells and whistles and cup holders, or you can get a good basic one new for under R900. If it is SABS approved it will be good enough. Children quickly outgrow a specific size safety seat, so it’s easy to find second-hand seats. A quick look at Gumtree showed seats starting at R350. And this means you can sell your current seat there as well.
Here is a summary of safety seats. Seats usually indicate age and weight limits.
Infant car restraint (birth – 9/12 months, up to 10kg)
Never use this seat where there is an airbag, and it’s better to use it on the back seat. The seat must face the rear, so any impact will be on the seat and not the baby. Install using a three-point seatbelt and secure the baby with the harness.
Child car seat (birth – 4/5 years, up to 18 kg)
This seat should be rear-facing until the baby is around 10kg or 9 months old. After this, you can turn the seat to face the front. There are many different seats in this class, so always follow the instructions on how to fit it.
Booster seat (4/6 years, 15 – 25kg)
These are light and versatile, boosting the position of the child to allow the use of a three-point adult safety belt. They can go in front but are better in the back.
Booster cushion (6/11 years, 22 – 36kg)
This is even simpler than the booster seat and is used to position the seat belt and allow the child to see out of the car. It should be used until the child is big enough to use normal seatbelts normally.
Another dot: A drunk driver jumps a light and you hit him side-on at 60km/h. Because you spent the equivalent cost of 2 or 3 bags of groceries on a safety seat, your child may escape with minor injuries or even just a big fright. Easy to connect that one, is it not?
This safety message is brought to you by Renault. Even the very affordable Renault Sandero scored very well in the Global NCAP ratings; when fitted with Renault approved car seats it scored an excellent 4 stars for child safety.