Monday, January 1, 0001

Recent US research, according to Safe Kids Worldwide, reveals that many parents are not using their children’s car seats properly. In fact, 1 out of every 4 parents admit to not buckling their children in on every single car trip.

“According to UNICEF, road accidents are the leading cause of death in children under five years old in South Africa,” explains 1st for Women Insurance’s Executive Head, Robyn Farrell, adding, “The Road Traffic Management Corporation says that we have more than 700 000 crashes a year with three children dying a day on our roads. In our country, a child is twenty times more likely to die on our roads then anywhere else in the world. The simple truth is that if car seats were used safely and correctly, many of these deaths could be avoided.”

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration estimates that 3 out of 4 safety seats are used incorrectly. “It’s your duty to educate yourself. Remember that height and weight are the important factors, not the age of the child,” says Farrell.

Car seat use reduces the risk for death to infants by 71% and to toddlers (aged 1–4 years) by 54% in passenger vehicles. Booster seats use reduces the risk for serious injury by 45% for children aged 4–8 years when compared with seat belt use alone.

“Your child needs to be at least 145cm tall before you can stop using the booster seat,” says Farrell.

Invest in a safety seat that's convenient to use and make buckling your child into it an ingrained habit.

“Using the car seats properly will make the difference between life and death in an accident. A one-time lapse can result in a lifetime of regret,” concludes Farrell

1st for Women offers some additional car seat safety tips:

  • Buy the best car seat you can afford. Beware of bargains, old and secondhand car seats. They may have some unseen damage.
  • If you must use a secondhand seat, make sure it has the original instructions, all its parts (check the manual), hasn’t been in a serious accident or recalled. Stick with car seats that are less than five years old. There’s usually an expiration date on the seat.
  • Always double-check the car seat's label to ensure it's the right one for your child's age, weight and height.
  • Keep your child rear-facing as long as possible - at least until the age of 2 or until he reaches the seat's maximum rear-facing height and weight limits.
  • Your child should ride in a safety seat with a five-point harness until he/she weighs at least 18.5kgs, or until his shoulders no longer fit under the harness straps.
  • Your child should ride in a booster seat from the time he/she weighs 18.5kgs and is at least 4 years old until he's 4 feet 9 inches tall and at least 8 years old.
  • Make sure your seat is installed correctly.
  • Check to be sure that car seats don't tip forward or slide from side to side more than an inch, and that boosters are secured with a lap-and-shoulder belt.
  • Make sure your child is secured in the seat properly by ensuring that the car seat harness straps are snug enough to hold your child firmly in the event of an accident.
  • Buckle your child in, making sure the harness straps aren't twisted, and then use the mechanism to pull the harness tight. You shouldn't be able to pinch any harness fabric between your fingers.
  • Slide the plastic retainer clip that holds the two straps together up to armpit level before securing it. If the clip is too low, your child could be ejected from his seat in a crash.
  • When you're putting your child in his seat, double-check to be sure that the seat is buckled tightly to the car. Forward-facing safety seats come with a strap so you can tether the seat to an anchor point in the car for extra protection.
  • Set a good example by always wearing your own seat belt.
  • Next time you see someone driving around with their children not in a car seat or safely buckled up, call 0861 400-800 with the car’s license plate and the date and the RTMC will send them a warning letter. It could save a child's life.


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