Your baby is the most precious bundle in the world – ensure his safety by always strapping him into the correct car seat. Car safety expert Julie Monson gives you the lowdown.
- Why is it important to have your baby strapped in a car seat from birth?
- It’s physically impossible for an adult to hold on to a baby in a collision. In a crash, the baby’s body weight is multiplied by the speed at which the car is travelling. For example, if you’re holding on to a 6kg baby and have a collision at 60km/h, the baby’s weight at the moment of impact would be 360kg. Unrestrained babies very often get ejected from cars. If they are not killed on impact, they will certainly sustain severe, lifelong disabilities. Strapping your child into a car seat can help prevent this if you are involved in an accident.
- Until what age should your child be in a car seat? And what does South African law say?
- On 1 May 2015 a new law came into effect that makes it illegal for an infant (a child under three years) to travel without being strapped into a suitable car seat. Here are the relevant legal extracts:
- Reg 213 (1C): An infant is a person below the age of three years.
- Reg213 (6A):The driver of a motor vehicle operated on a public road shall ensure that an infant travelling in such a motor vehicle is seated on an appropriate child restraint: provided that this provision shall not apply in a case of a minibus, minibus or bus operating for reward.
However, bear in mind that what is legal is not necessarily what is safest. Seatbelts are designed to save adults’ lives. They can cause severe/fatal injuries in children under 1.5m tall, which is known as ‘seatbelt Syndrome’. This occurs when a child is too short to get a safe seatbelt fit, and the seatbelt slices into the abdomen and/or severs the spinal cord. Children older than three should have age-appropriate boosters.
- Which is the best seat for a baby?
- Infant seats are rear facing and approved from birth to 9/10/13kg depending on the model. They can be part of a travel system, and are often better suited to newborns than multi-stage seats. They should be more reclined (which reduces risk of positional asphyxiation) to 45 degrees for infants.
- What are the important things to look for when deciding on your first car seat for your baby?
- Before you buy an infant seat, do your research! It is preferable to buy a car seat that has undergone additional independent crash testing and scores highly for safety. All available safety reviews can be found on Car Seat Support South Africa on Facebook.
Be sure to fit a few infant seats in your car before you buy to ensure it installs correctly and securely, and make sure you install it exactly as stipulated by the manual.
- What are the important things to remember when strapping your child in?
- Be sure to read your manual on how to adjust the headrest and harness. For rear facing, the straps must come from at or just below the shoulders. For forward facing, the straps must come from at or just above the shoulders.
When strapping your child in, pull the slack at the hips before pulling the tail to tighten the harness. You should not be able to pinch the webbing of the harness.