Car injuries are a leading cause of death among children. However, the use of age-appropriate and size-appropriate car seats, booster seats, and seat belts prevent death and severe injury.
• Parents should also always wear seat belts as this sets a good example for children as well as reduces their risk of serious injury or death in case of an accident.
• Always buckle up your child in the appropriate car seat no matter how short the trip may be. Crashes can occur at any time. Always ensure safety first.
• Car seats are safest if placed in the back seat. Serious injuries can occur to the child/infant if an airbag was to inflate in the front seat when a car seat is placed in the front seat.
• Always place the baby car seat at the centre of the back seat as this position minimises the risk of injury incase of an accident.
Here are different types of baby car seats and when your baby needs each type.
Rear-facing car seats
They should be used from after birth until the maximum weight or height limit of the car seat has been reached as labelled by the manufacturer.
The child/infant should be placed in the rear-facing car seat with a harness.
Always place the rear-facing car seat in the back seat as the front passenger airbag can injure or kill children in the event of a crash.
Forward-facing car seat
This type of car seat should be used after the child has outgrown the rear-facing car seat and until age 5. The seat should be placed in the back seat of the car. The child should utilise this kind of seat until they reach the maximum weight or height limit of the car seat as per the labels on the car seat.
Always check the car seat manual for the height and weight limits.
This kind of seat should be used when children have outgrown their forward-facing car seat.
The child should be buckled in a belt-positioning booster seat with a seat belt, in the back seat, until the seat belt fits properly without a booster seat.
A seat belt fits properly if the shoulder belt is across the centre of the shoulder and chest while the lap belt should be across the upper thighs. This typically does not occur until children are aged nine to 12.
Transition to the use of seat belts should occur when the seat belt fits properly without the use of a booster seat.
Children no longer need to use a booster seat when the seat belt fits them properly. A seat belt fits properly when the lap belt is across the upper thighs and not the stomach whereas the shoulder belt should fit across the centre of the shoulder and chest (not on the neck/face or off the shoulder). This typically does not occur until the age of nine to 12 years.
• Different cars can vary in the way seat belts fit. Children may require a booster seat in one vehicle but may be able to use a seat belt in another.
• It is recommended that children should be buckled in the back seat until they reach the age of 12.
• Always ensure that car and booster seats are installed as per the manual. When possible, do ensure that children are properly buckled in the middle seating position of the back seat as this is the safest position in the car.
• Remember that you can save your child from serious injury or death by the correct use of car seats.
Dr Sinuff is a consultant paediatrician at Aga Khan University Hospital Nairobi