For the Littles

Here’s what you need to know about car seats

Child Passenger Safety Week runs internationally from 7 to 11 September. Check out this handy checklist to see if you are using your car seat correctly.

Did you know: In a crash at a speed of 50 km/h, your bodyweight is increased by around 30 times. For example, a child weighing approximately 30 kg turns into a projectile weighing a ton. At the point of impact, no-one is capable of restraining them. The strength of the impact is equal to falling 3 stories. Crazy, right?

Child Passenger Safety Week runs internationally from 7 to 11 September, and the team at Maxi-Cosi is making it their aim to inform people of the importance of our children’s safety in motor vehicles in South Africa. Strapping our children into a well secured car seat needs to become something every single one of us do, no matter how short a car trip we are doing!” says Debbie Billson, Operations Director for Maxi-Cosi. 

While children under the age of 3 are legally required to be securely restrained in a car seat, standard seat belts in most cars are designed for adult passengers 150cm and taller, leaving children between the ages of 4 and 12 years old requiring additional support in the form of a booster seat.  “The lower belt doesn’t sit on their hips, as it is intended to do with adults, and rather ends up around their abdomen, which can result in fatal internal injuries in the case of a crash. The upper section of the belt rests dangerously across their neck, as opposed to being on their shoulder, and can easily break a child’s neck in the case of an accident! A simple booster seat can prevent unnecessary injuries and deaths,” says Debbie. 

Have a car seat? Great. Here are a few safety tips to help ensure you are using your car seat as effectively and safely as possible:

1.       Always use a car seat, even on short trips
It might seem obvious, and it’s the law, but sometimes parents look the other way, especially with short trips. Accidents can happen, even on the shortest trips. Many children are taken on trips of less than 3km without being strapped in, therefore, if unrestrained, an impact can prove fatal from speeds of 20km/h. In the event of an accident when a child is not restrained by a safety device, the risk of being ejected from the car is six or seven times greater.

2.       Avoid second-hand car seats
You can never be sure a second-hand car seat is a safe car seat. You don’t know if it’s been damaged in an accident, or has pieces missing or has been misused in any way.

3.       Use the correct size car seat
It’s best to buy a car seat for your child based on their current height and weight. Investigate and consider all your options when purchasing a seat that claims to cover multiple age groups.  Your child must travel in a car seat that is the appropriate size for them. This will ensure adequate safety for your child if you are ever involved in the unfortunate instance of a collision

4.       Install car seats correctly
      Group 0 or Car seats for babies under 1 year or 80 cm in height must always be rear-facing.
–        If your car has ISOFIX Points, you can select any car seat with either an ISOFIX connection or opt for a seat that uses your car’s seat belt.
ISOFIX Systems provides increased safety by eliminating human error when the seat is installed in the car.
–        If you don’t have ISOFIX you can use a seat belt installed car seat. Make sure you know how to guide the belt correctly and pull the car seat              belt tight.
–        Pull the car seat’s safety harness tight. If you can just slip one finger between the harness and your child’s chest, it’s tight enough.
–        Read the car seat manual or watch the installation video and follow the instructions carefully.
–        Both forms of installations options are safe as long as they are installed correctly, Isofix however does offer more safety but preventing
incorrect installation over the seat belt option.  

5.       Take your child’s coat off
A thick coat can make the harness less effective. If your child is cold, use their coat as a blanket over the harness.

6.       Make sure the safety harness is at the right height and not twisted
The harness should always be adjusted to the correct height setting which is at shoulder height. Check there are no twists in the straps. Incorrect height placement of the harness often results in children unbuckling themselves, escaping from the seat, head flops and potentially the harness could slip off during a collision.

7.       Use a rear-facing car seat for as long as possible
It’s safest for babies and toddlers to stay in a rear-facing car seat until they are at least 15 months old. It doesn’t matter if their legs stick out, but if their heads are higher than the seat shell, they need the next size. The neck of a child matures with age, and not when it reaches a certain stature or mass. Up until 15 months, the baby’s neck is not yet developed enough to withstand the impulsive force of an average frontal collision because of its relatively heavy head. The excessive pressure on the neck of the baby might lead to serious neck injuries. When travelling rearward facing, the forces of a frontal collision are better spread over a greater area of the body of the baby, which leads to less pressure on the head and neck.

8.       Beware of activated frontal airbags
The safest place for a rear-facing car seat is on the back seat. This avoids the danger of front airbags inflating against the seat. Deactivate the front airbag if you use your car seat on the front passenger seat and place this seat in the further most position.

9.       Keep loose items off the rear parcel shelf
In an accident, even small loose items can turn into dangerous projectiles. Tuck them away safely. 

For more information about Child Passenger Safety Week please visit

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