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Car Seats: Ensuring Your child’s Safety

HIGHLIGHTS:

  • Placing your child in a car seat for the duration of a car journey can reduce the severity of an injury by 70-80% in the event of a crash.
  • Children can be placed in car seats from birth until the age of around 13 years old, while the choice of car seat should reflect the child’s individual needs.
  • If an infant begins to cry, scream and refuses to sit in a car seat, parents must practice patience, stay strong and not give in. They should try to find a compromise that involves the child sitting in the seat, or look for other things that could take the infant’s attention away from the journey. This may take the form of parking to take a break and going for a walk with the child, or finding them toys to play with, so that they feel relaxed enough to continue on the car journey.

 

Accidents can occur at any time. With proper precautions taken, one could dramatically reduce the damage caused by such an occurrence. From studies into the subject, it has been found that in the event of an accident, infants in car seats are up to 70-80% safer than those who are not.

The importance of placing your child in a car seat

The bodies of infants are not yet fully grown, and are therefore unsuitable for adult safety belts. As a result, a car seat is a hugely important piece of equipment that can offer improved protection for your young one. This is because, in the event of a serious accident, the child could be propelled forwards, resulting in a severe injury, such as a head injury, spinal cord damage, a puncture lung or various other injuries affecting the internal organs, including a ruptured liver or ruptured spleen. Death is also a possibility in serious accidents whereby children do not have an adequate safety device holding them in place.

Sometimes mothers or fathers carry their child on their lap because they believe this to be the safest place available. In reality, however, if an accident should occur, the force of the impact will propel the child out of the parents’ grasp. Alternatively, in cases where the parents pass the safety belt over both themselves and the child, the force of a serious accident is likely to cause the adult to crush the child to death under their own weight.

The ages at which children should use a car seat

Children are suited to car seats from birth until the age of around 13 years. Parents should select a car seat depending on the age of their child because a child’s size will differ greatly as they grow. There are a huge number of car seat sizes but the most important aspect to look out for is the seat’s safety standards.

You should take into account the child’s age, weight or height when choosing a car seat which is right for your child, with the ages, weight or height of children usually categorized into the following 3 groups:

  • 1st group:  Infants – under the age of 2, weighing around 0-13 kilograms.
  • 2nd group: Toddlers – aged between 9 months -4 years, weighing around 9-18 kilograms.
  • 3rd group: Children – aged between 4-12 years, weighing >= 18 kilograms.

The safe use of a car seat

  • For infants, it is important for the car seat to have additional seating or padding to ensure that the child is seated tightly and doesn’t slip out.
  • The car seat should be installed on the back seat as this is the safest place to be, with the seat facing the seat it is placed on (rear-facing). This means that the child will be facing the back of the car as this will protect them in the event that the car comes to a sudden stop by preventing them from being propelled forward.
  • For children over the age of 2, the car seat may be placed facing forwards, in the same direction that the parents are facing.

It is crucial that parents install the car seat correctly, making sure to always check the seat before any journey to see that it is fit for use.

Techniques that can be used to convince infants who refuse to sit in a car seat

Medical professionals recommend that children be placed in car seats from birth in order to build familiarity. This may mean seating them in the car seat for shorter journeys, such as going to the local shops, as this will help the child get used to it. This practice is key because once a child reaches 8 months-1 year of age, they will begin learning about how to elicit certain responses from their parents, meaning they may start screaming for attention, so parents must be patient. When the child does cry out from his/her car seat, parents may wish to park the car and take the child for a short walk, or find them a toy to play with, until which point they feel relaxed enough to continue on the journey.


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*Research from the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), 2018

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Kulakan Suwanapum Poonoil, M.D. Summary: Pediatrics Pediatrics