Seatbelts and child car seats save lives daily

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The power of a parent’s love can only protect a child from the massive forces of a car accident when age appropriate car seats and safety belts are used every time a child travels in a vehicle – no matter how short the distance.

“When you see what we as paramedics have to deal with at accident scenes, you’ll understand the importance of wearing a seatbelt and securing your child safely in a child seat. It is especially chilling to arrive at a scene and find a mother cradling her child after they’ve been ejected through the windscreen. As a parent myself, I can never emphasise the importance of car seats enough,” said Charné van der Berg, Netcare 911’s critical care operations manager.

Van der Berg adds that over the recent 2022/23 festive season, 1 451 people were killed in road accidents with the transport ministry drawing attention to the lifesaving importance of seat belts and child car seats.

In cars without airbags, it is recommended that the car seats of children under the age of two should be rear-facing on the front passenger seat, and then a front facing car seat on the back seat as they get older. Once children outgrow a car seat, they are still too small for conventional seatbelts to be optimally effective and need to be secured in a booster seat.

“Accidents happen when least expected – even a quick trip down the road can have fatal consequences if a child is not safely restrained. According to Arrive Alive, in road traffic accidents, properly installed child safety seats can reduce the need for hospitalisation among children younger than four years by 69%,” Van der Berg said.

“It is not safe for a child to sit on an adult’s lap while travelling in a car. The adult may be safely strapped in with a safety belt, but the force of a collision is so immense that the child isn’t protected at all. People often think they would be able to hold onto their child in the event of an accident, but in reality, it’s not possible,” she added.

Van der Berg noted that although toddlers have a will of their own, and can be especially difficult when being strapped in, it is the responsibility of the adult to make it a routine part of every car trip. “It takes two minutes, and it can save a lifetime of regret,” she said.

Here are 7 tips for car seat safety:

  1. Do your research when buying a car seat. Make sure your car seat or booster seat is quality assured by SABS.
  2. Install child safety restraints correctly according to the seat manufacturer’s instructions and check these against your car owner’s manual.
  3. Ensure your child’s car seat is right for their age and weight. Replace the seat as needed when your child outgrows their car seat.
  4. Make sure to check all the clips and buckles, including those securing the child seat into the car, every time you travel with your child.
  5. Make sure straps are tightfitting to be effective in an accident, and to prevent driver distraction that could lead to an accident.
  6. There is no negotiation when it comes to car safety, your child or infant has to be properly secured every time.
  7. Avoid dressing your child in bulky clothing. Rather dress your child in layers of thinner fabric that will not compress under force or put a blanket over the restraints once your child is safely buckled in.

“Unequivocally, these car safety devices make a big difference to survival and minimising injuries in motor vehicle accidents. Set a good example for your children; always make sure everyone is strapped in safely and never take a chance when it comes to car seats or seatbelts,” Van der Berg concluded.

Compiled by Justine Fortuin