Safely strapping your child into a car seat could save their lives

by | Sep 7, 2020

According to South African law every child under the age of 3 must be strapped into a car seat when travelling in a car. However, more than this, it is important to ensure that your child is safely secured in their car seat. Correctly strapping your child into a car seat could be the difference between life and death. Tennille Aron chatted to Debbie Bilson, operations director of car seat brand Maxi-Cosi to ask her how to ensure that your child is safely secured in their car seat.

  1. How do you securely strap your child into a car seat?

Proper fitting of a car seat is vital! To ensure your child’s safety, you must follow certain basic, but essential rules when fitting your car seat into your car and strapping your child into their car seat. Bear in  mind that every time you travel in a car with your child, you could be putting their life at risk. So, here are the steps that you should follow to ensure that your child is always safely strapped in.

  • Use a child restraint system, such as a car seat or booster seat, that is suited to the size of your child.
  • Read the car seat manual or watch the installation video and follow the instructions carefully when installing your car seat into your car.
  • Eliminate the use of puffy jackets or bulky clothing on the child when a child restraint is being used as this could hinder the effectiveness of the restraint. If your little one is cold, you can throw their jacket over them like a blanket after securing them in the car seat.
  • Make sure the harness and head rest is at the appropriate height for your child and that the harness is not twisted. The harness should always be adjusted to shoulder height. Check there are no twists in the straps. Incorrect height placement of the harness often results in children unbuckling themselves, escaping from the seat, head flops and could result in the harness slipping off during a collision.
  • Ensure that the straps of the car seat are horizontal over the shoulders, and don’t be afraid to pull the harness tight. The rule for the harness is that there should be space for only one index finger between the strap and the child.

2. What are some common errors that parents make when strapping their child into a car seat?

A common error that a parent makes when strapping their child into a car seat is that they don’t set the harnessing system at the correct height. Always ensure that the harness is at shoulder level when securing your child in a car seat. As the child grows, the harness height will have to be adjusted. Another error that parents make is that they don’t make the harness tight enough. Remember, that you should pull the harness so that there is space for only one index finger between the strap and your child’s chest. Twisting of the buckles in the length of the belt can reduce the effectiveness of the car seat, so always ensure there are no twists when securing your child in their car seat.

3. What is the difference between using a rearward facing and forward-facing car seat, and which one is safer for my child?

The neck of a child matures with age and not when it reaches a certain stature or mass. Up until 15 months, the baby’s neck is not fully developed and therefore, will not be able to withstand the impulsive force of an average frontal collision. The excessive pressure on the neck of the baby due to an accident might lead to serious neck injuries in a child in a front-facing car seat. When travelling in a rear-facing car seat, the forces of a frontal collision are better spread over a greater area of the body of the baby, which leads to less pressure on the head and neck. So, keeping your child in a rear-facing car seat for as long as possible could help to prevent head and neck injuries in the event of an accident.

4. Are there any other car safety tips you can offer parents?

Remember to check the placement of the airbags in your car before installing your car seat. The safest place for a rear-facing car seat is on the back seat. This avoids the danger of the front airbags inflating against the seat. Deactivate the front airbag if you use your car seat on the front passenger seat and place this seat in the further most position. However, it is not recommended that you do use your car seat in the front passenger seat.

Always keep loose items off the rear parcel shelf. In an accident, even small loose items can turn into dangerous projectiles. Rather tuck them away safely.

Standard seat belts in most cars are designed for adult passengers over 150cm in height. Therefore, any child under 150cm are not safe just being secured by a seat belt or even a parent holding on to them. So, remember to Use car seats Every Ride, Every Time!

It is Child Passenger Safety Week from the 7 – 11 September 2020. Now in its fourth year, this campaign aims to educate and inform South African road users of the dangers of travelling on our roads with children who are not securely strapped into a car seat. “Strapping children into a well secured car seat needs to become something we all get into the habit of doing, no matter how short a car trip we are doing!” explains Bilson. Securing your child in a car seat could save their life!

For more information on Child Passenger Safety Week, visit