A child restraint is your child's best protection against death or injury in a collision. Proper child restraints will reduce the risk of fatal injury to children by 71% and of serious injury by 67%. But do you know which one to buy?
Child restraints are available for all ages. Buy a restraint according to your child's weight and not his/her age. Child restraints are available in the following categories:
Group 0: Children lighter than 10kg (Birth to around 9 months)
Buy a rear-facing seat with an integral harness, secured by a lap and diagonal belt. In a collision the impact will be on the seat and not on the baby. Babies under six months should use a head support cushion, unless the seat is designed to be without. Note that these seats should not be used in the front passenger seat if the car has an airbag, unless there is a load sensor in the seat. Airbags deploy with considerable force and can harm children who are not properly buckled up or those in rear-facing restraints.
Example: Safeway Snug and Sound.
Group 0+: Children lighter than 13kg (Birth to around 13 months)
A rear-facing seat with integral harness, secured by lap and diagonal belt.
Example: Asti Baby Nest.
Group I: 9-18kg (9 months to around 5 years)
This group includes combination seats which are used in two ways:
- facing rearward for newborn babies up to 10 or 13 kg, depending on the car seat
- facing forward for babies weighing from 10 - 13 kg(depending on the car seat) to 18 kg.
Avoid using a forward facing seat until your child is above the minimum weight and able to sit on his/her own.
Examples: Asti Bonnytot, Asti Vario Nest (Groups I-III), Anchor Maxi Cosi, Safeway Executive
Group II: 15kg – 25kg (around 4 years to 7 years)
Children now graduate to a booster seat, which faces forward and uses the adult car seat belt to secure both the seat and the child. Some have a back section that is removable, giving a separate booster for the older child.
Examples: Asti Winner (Groups II-III), Asti Kiddy Comfort (Groups II-III), Asti Mega Nest (Groups II-III)
Group III: 22kg – 36kg (around 5 years to 12 years)
A booster cushion is for the child who has outgrown a child restraint, but still needs extra height for safety. The child is secured at the shoulder and across the thighs by the adult seat belt.
Example: Graco Junior Booster Seat, Asti Booster Seat
General rules The Child Accident Prevention Foundation of South Africa (CAPFSA) offers the following advice:
- Only buy SABS approved child restraints. Check the back and underside of the restraint for the SABS mark.
- Even the best child restraints on the market are useless if they are not properly installed. Follow the manufacturer's instructions.
- If you have been in an accident, replace the seat belts and the webbing of the child restraint used during the accident. The damage to the belts may not be visible but you cannot rely on those belts to save your child's life a second time.
Buying a second hand child restraint
If you are offered a second hand child restraint, find out the full history of the seat. Don't buy it if it has been in a collision. Don't use it if it shows obvious signs of wear such as cracks, straps or a buckle that doesn't work. Obtain an instruction booklet.
What to do if you are travelling in a car without child restraints
It is not always possible to avoid travel in cars without proper child restraints. Here are your safest options in these situations, according to the department of transport:
Infants: An adult who is buckled up in an outer seat could keep the baby on her lap. This adult will, however, not be able to hold the baby in a severe accident. The baby will be flung forward head first and be seriously injured.
Children aged between three and 14: If no child restraint is available, the seat belt must be worn. If the child is so small that the shoulder portion lies across the child's face or neck, only the lap portion should be worn. In a vehicle with two or more rows of seats, the driver is required to move the child:
- to the rear if there are no vacant seats with restraints anywhere;
- to the front if there is a vacant seat with a restraint at the front and there are no vacant seats with restraints at the rear.
- Ilse Pauw, Health24
Hard facts can save your child