21 September 2017

Here's why all children should be secured when travelling by car

Alarming statistics show that many children are not restrained when travelling by car.

According to Arrive Alive, 84% of children in South Africa travel in cars without using safety seats or seatbelts, and passenger deaths in children are the fourth leading cause of unnatural deaths in our country.

These statistics are shocking, and more awareness should be created to decrease the number of fatalities. 

A new study based in the US shows that awareness campaigns do work, as parents are doing a better job of properly positioning infants and toddlers in their car seats, but older kids aren't always safely seated, a new study reports.

Room for improvement

The research suggests that child passenger safety education programmes are working for infants and young children, increasing the number of parents and caregivers who understand that children younger than two years of age should ride in rear-facing car seats.

"This study shows that child passenger safety education has been a success in making sure young children are positioned correctly in the car, but there is still room for improvement," said lead researcher Dr Joseph O'Neil. He is medical director of the Automotive Safety Program at Riley Hospital for Children at Indiana University Health.

Spot checks 

For the study, researchers conducted spot checks to look at where children were sitting in a car. Specifically, the researchers monitored the type of car seats used, as well as how and where they were positioned in cars, according to an American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) news release.

The spot checks included more than 7 700 children aged 15 and younger. The spot checks took place at 25 different locations throughout Indiana between 2009 and 2015.

The AAP recommends that children be placed in rear-facing safety seats until they are at least two years old.

The researchers found rear-facing seat placement among infants increased from 84% in 2009 to 91% in 2015. During this time, use of rear-facing car seats also increased from 12% to 61% among toddlers aged 12 to 17 months.

Importance of booster seats 

The AAP and Arrive Alive also recommend that children aged four to eight years ride in booster seats. But use of these seats fell during the study period, from 72% in 2009 to 65% in 2015.

The study authors noted that educational campaigns should also make sure children continue to ride in booster seats until they are at least eight years old. Plus, parents should keep all children out of the front seat until they are at least 13 years old.

The study findings are scheduled for presentation at the American Academy of Pediatrics meeting, in Chicago. Research presented at meetings should be viewed as preliminary until published in a peer-reviewed journal.

Seat belts only for older kids

Here are some of the recommendations given by Arrive Alive on their website to improve the safety of children while travelling in a car:

  • The appropriate child restraint should be used for children under the age of 10/11.
  • Use an approved car safety seat or booster seat that is correct for your child's height/weight, and suitable for the car.
  • Children are usually big enough to use a seat belt by the age of about 10/11 years.
  • A seat belt instead of a car seat for children under the age of 10/11 doesn't offer adequate protection for a child and can lead to serious injury or death.

Image credit: iStock