The use of seatbelts in cars is without a doubt responsible for saving the lives of countless South African children every year.
A number of studies have shown that, in the case of a vehicle accident, injuries are prevented and lives saved when adults and children are properly restrained. Sadly, many parents don’t properly restrain their children, or they allow them to sit in the front seat using adult seatbelts or to play in the back of the car without any restraints whatsoever.
Why children and babies are most at risk in a car
Children and babies are much more vulnerable to injury than adults, and adult seatbelts often don’t adequately restrain them during an accident. Children need to be strapped in using properly designed child safety seats that are secured in the rear of the car. These seats are highly effective in preventing injury and should be used every time you travel in the car with your child. Rear-facing child seats have been shown to reduce injury by as much as 76% and severe injury by 92%. Forward-facing restraints are less effective but still reduce injury by 34% and severe injury by 60%. A child who is standing between the two front seats at the time of an accident has the greatest chance of being injured or of not surviving the accident. Children can also be severely injured by airbags if these are activated while the child is in the front seat.
7 Seatbelt safety tips
- Use your car safety seat from the very first day you travel with your newborn baby on your way home from the hospital.
- The safest place for your child is on the back seat in a correctly fitted safety seat. A child should only be allowed to sit in the front seat once she is taller than 150cm, can place her feet comfortably on the ground, and weighs more than 45kg.
- A rear-facing child restraint system provides the best protection for infants until they are around 12 months old. Keep them in this type of car seat for as long as possible and only start using a forward-facing child seat when they no longer fit in the rear-facing type seat, or until they reach the maximum height or weight limit allowed by your car seat’s manufacturer.
- Make sure you follow the installation instructions for the motor vehicle safety seat or seek assistance if these are not clear to you.
- Always ensure the car seat is well secured and that the child is properly strapped in.
- Once your child has completely outgrown the larger car seat (usually around eight and 10 years of age), it needs to be replaced with a booster seat which helps prop a child to a better height so that a standard seat belt rests in the correct place across their body. Make sure your child does not tuck the shoulder belt under his/her arm or behind his/her back. This leaves the upper body unprotected and adds extra slack into the seatbelt system, putting your child at risk of severe injury in a collision or with sudden braking.
- Never allow anyone to ‘share’ seatbelts. All passengers must have their own car seats and seatbelts.