Worldwide, car crashes are a leading cause of death among children. When a car crashes, children are at greater risk of death. They can die from the crash itself, or from the loss of a parent or breadwinner. Apart from death, children can suffer severe disability, anxiety, depression and post-traumatic stress disorder.

During a car crash, a person who is not properly restrained will move at the same speed as the car. Imagine a child’s body being thrown forward at 120 km/hour and landing against your dashboard or your windshield. The injuries will be catastrophic. Children in back seats have a 36% reduction in the risk of fatal injury compared with front seat occupants. Restrained children in back seats have the greatest protection.

The Correct Way to Transport Children in Cars

The correct transport of children should start right from when your newborn leaves hospital for the first time. The American Academy of Paediatrics has the following car safety recommendations for children.

  • All infants and toddlers should ride in backward-facing child car seats for as long as possible, until they attain the highest weight and height allowed by the seat manufacturer. This is usually between the ages of 2-4 years.
  • Children who have exceeded the weight and height limits of backward-facing child car seats should use forward-facing car seats for as long as possible, till the greatest height and weight recommendations of the car seat manufacturer are passed, around age 5 years.
  • Children who are bigger or taller than the limits for forward-facing child car seats should transition into belt-positioning booster seats until the vehicle’s lap and shoulder seatbelts fit properly, usually between ages 8 and 12.
  • Children younger than 13 years who have moved on from booster seats should sit at the back of a vehicle, wearing well-fitting lap and shoulder seat belts for safety.

Seat belts, car seats and air bags

Studies have shown that when a driver uses a seat belt, passengers are more likely to use their own restraints too, so be a good example by wearing a seatbelt yourself. Install your child’s car seat properly according to the manufacturer’s instructions. A car seat that has survived a car crash may no longer offer maximum protection. Secure your child safely, using both the chest clips and the crotch buckle. Your child should not travel in the cargo area of a pickup truck.

Front air bags, while protecting adults during a crash, cause severe injury to children less than 13 years who sit in front. Side air bags may also cause injury to children who lean against the doors of vehicles. Therefore, sit your child as far away as possible from an airbag. The safest place for your child in a car is in the middle of the back seat, provided it has lap and shoulder seat belts.

Forgotten Baby Syndrome

Parents are busy people. It is not unusual for you to want to run quickly into a shop and dash out while your baby is asleep in the car. Leaving a baby alone in a car is dangerous for him, because you can forget him.  The car can heat up quickly and kill your baby from heatstroke, even if it was cool inside the car before the you left.

An older child can also gain access to your car without your knowledge, put on the engine, and accidentally fall asleep in the car with the engine running.

Focus on the drive

While driving, especially if there is a child in the car, focus on the drive. Don’t text, drink, take recreational drugs or drugs that sedate while driving. Taking care of a baby while driving can increase the risk of a crash. If it is possible, have another responsible person in the car who can take care of your baby while you drive. Keep children safe by obeying all road safety laws.

Children are the most vulnerable in any car crash. You can save their lives by properly positioning and restraining them. Obeying road safety regulations protect children too. Children should not be left alone in cars even for short periods, or allowed access to cars without supervision. Let us keep children alive. T

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