Why Car Seats Are Important in South Africa!
Most parents are slowly coming around to the fact that car seats are important when it comes to protecting your child on the road.
I, however, was not one of these parents. I always felt that there was an element of hysteria around the car seat phenomenon. After all, look at me! I am just fine and so are all my friends. I can’t remember seeing anyone in a car seat when I was young.
So when we had our first baby, I was surprised and a little annoyed at the concern my wife had about travelling with our baby. But I indulged her…
Until she proposed an expensive, high-end car seat. That’s when I put my foot down! Well,at least that’s what I thought…
This blog post contains the information that she used to change my mind. I hope it will change your mind too.
OH WOW! WE NOT IN THE 1980’s ANYMORE
So it turns out things have changed since I was a toddler. Changed a lot!
We now have nearly 11 Million vehicles on our roads in South Africa. This has contributed to a huge escalation in fatalities on our roads.
In fact, The International Transport Forum 2017 Road Safety Report ranked South Africa the worst out of 41 countries world wide, when it came to the number of road fatalities.
The actual numbers are astounding! 14 050 people were killed in road crashes in 2017. That’s one person every 38 minutes. And that’s just deaths.
Your chances of being injured are much higher. 524 000 people are injured in road crashes annually. That’s 1435 people a day or 1 person every minute.
According to a study drawing data from the CSIR, one out of every 45 road users will end up in a trauma unit at some point in their lives.
HOLD ON TIGHT!
“Do you even lift?” That’s what I wanted to ask my wife when she refused to let me take our screaming child out of her car seat on a long distance trip to my parents.
Sure, she could doubt her ability to hold onto our child in a crash, but these guns could handle it. I was insulted!
Our little girl only weighed about 6 kgs and her crying was driving me crazy.
Again, Julie was able to shut me down, this time turning to an unexpected ally; science!
Apparently it’s basic physics: In a crash, our body weight is multiplied by the speed at which we travel. Luckily I slowed down to 40km/h so I was still backing myself.
Turns out holding my little 6kg girl would be like handling a 500 pound gorilla at that speed. Literally, a 240kg Silver back Gorilla!
Take a look at this shocking video which shows what happens when you hold your infant in a car accident, even at low speeds.
Fine! if i can't hold her, strap her in with you!
Apparently having a seatbelt over you and your child is no safer than holding them in your arms. The force, in a crash, of your body against theirs is equivalent to 1500kg and would almost certainly crush them.
What makes things even worse is that much of a baby's skeleton is made of soft cartilage that has not yet turned into bone. This makes them more vulnerable to injuries during a crash, since their organs and spinal cord are not as well-protected as those of an adult.
There’s a Seat Belt in the Back
When it comes to having a baby, it is quite ridiculous how many things are deemed essential.
From organic non-allergenic baby soap, to infant monitors that force you to hear you baby screaming in stereo. Everything seems geared at scaring the money right out of your pocket.
I felt the same about car seats. After all, there’s a seat belt in the back. Surely they could use that when they get a little bigger.
Firstly there is the small matter of the law.
It is now illegal to travel in a car with a child under three years old that is not strapped into an approved car seat.
REG 213 (6A) was instituted on the 30th April 2015 and states:
The driver of a motor vehicle operated on a public road shall ensure that an infant travelling in such a motor vehicle is seated on an appropriate child restraint: Provided that this provision shall not apply in a case of a minibus or bus operating for reward.REG 213 (6A)
Secondly, as it turns out, studies have been done on this too.
The introduction of seatbelts in Australia in 1970 led to a big drop in road fatalities. Despite this, 1000 Australian children a year are seriously injured despite wearing seat belts.
Researchers for the Medical Journal of Australia found that although adult seatbelts were better than no seatbelt at all, children were almost 3 times more likely to be injured in a crash than adults wearing the same seatbelt.
This is because kids body dimensions are different to those of adults. They are shorter, have relatively larger heads and smaller hipbones. The shoulder belt of an adult’s seat belt usually runs across a child’s face or neck and the lap belt lies over the abdomen rather than the hips.
This positioning was found to be the cause of serious neck and head injuries in children as well as bruising, tears and perforations of the intestines. In fact, these injuries are so commonly associated with adult seat belts that doctors have termed the phrase ‘seatbelt syndrome’ for the pattern of injuries on children.
Buying A Car Seat Second Hand
Buying a second hand seat seemed like it would be a logical compromise.
Problematically, I had just updated my old cell phone to the iphone 5 and my wife was happy to use this against me. Apparently it’s not only phones that need regular updating.
Car seats get regular technology and design updates too. Crash test data, advances in materials, manufacturing and design all help to improve car seats functionality and safety.
From side-impact protection to spring-loaded whiplash protection, a lot of work has gone into making car seats safer and it has shown in the numbers.
According to the IIHS, the number of infants killed in car crashes in the US since car seat regulations began in 1975 has plummeted by 80 percent.
The other problem with second hand seat is that they expire.
The manufacturers of car seats give their seats a recommended lifespan because the quality of the plastic used in car seats deteriorate over time.
Apparently the extreme fluctuations in heat within a car make the plastic of the car seat brittle. The heat in cars can get close to 80 Degrees centigrade when sitting in the sun and crash over night to freezing point. This affects the condition of the plastic.
Take for instance a plastic garden chair. Although it is designed to be sat on, if it is left in the sun and cold over a number of years it will often become brittle and crack or break.
The good news is that car seats usually have a recommended
lifespan of between 6 and 10 years. But if you do buy second hand car seat please ensure you investigate the seat’s history.
Car seats are designed for one serious crash and if it has any structural damage it can be rendered completely useless in a second crash. For more on second hand car seats please find our blog at this link.
This video shows a used car seat in a crash test. In the test, the straps break and the child dummy is thrown from the seat.
Coming around to my wife’s way of thinking
After having all of my arguments severely rebutted by my wife, I realized I was losing the argument because I was not informed with the facts that supported my side of the argument.
So I decided to do some research. As I read more, I discovered that there was a lot more to car seats than meets the eye.
From different testing standards, correct and incorrect installation of seats to how your child is strapped within the seat, all had been thoroughly researched and were backed up by statistics, research and crash testing.
Finally, I found myself starting to agree with my wife’s opinion. The crash tests I watched on YouTube made me realize that children are really vulnerable in car crashes and that a car crash at just 50 Km/h is a frighteningly violent thing. I knew I would never have an accident (I’m an excellent driver) but I certainly didn’t want my kids to get hurt by some rogue drunk driver.
Ultimately I realized it was worth swallowing my pride and suggesting we get the chair she had been recommending all along. The bonus was, in making the suggestion, I made her think it was my idea!
I hate to think of the worst-case scenario. Its just too negative and I really don’t want to live in fear. That being said, YouTube a few car crash tests and you quickly realize that they are extremely violent and dangerous for kids, even at low speeds.
We all have different financial means but it is indisputable that a child car seat makes a fundamental difference to your child’s safety in a car crash.
Whether it be a used seat or a new seat or an independently crash tested seat, please do a bit of research and work out what is the best option for your family. Not all car seats are created equal.