KidsPrimary School

The importance of car seats for older children

While most parents know a baby seat is crucial to the safety of your tot while driving, did you know that older children should use one, too?

To survive a car accident, your 10-year-old requires a car seat!

Every child under 1,5m tall, between 10 and 12 years old, needs to be in a car seat to survive a crash, according to #CarseatFullstop. South Africa has some of the world’s most dangerous roads.

At the 2018 ITF Summit, it was stated that Africa has 2% of the world’s cars but 20% of road deaths. A car seat lowers your child’s risk of death by up to 71 percent and cuts the need for hospitalisation by 69 percent.

While many parents are aware that their children require car seats until they are around the age of four, there is a significant drop in awareness after that.

Car seats for different age groups

In their lifetime, your child will require three different car seats.

  1. An infant seat designed to hold and protect your baby when they are at their most vulnerable, up to 13kg or 75cm.
  2. A toddler seat with a five-point harness for children up to 18kg or 105cm tall, with a five-point harness (there are four seats in South Africa that go to 25kg or 115cm).
  3. A full-back booster seat with special guides to keep the car seatbelt flat and smooth across the chest, midway between the shoulder and neck, and low over the upper thighs or pelvis. These seats should be used until your child reaches the height of 1,5m (between 10 and 12 years old on average).

Each seat is made to protect a child at a specific developmental stage. On the orange sticker on the car seat’s shell, you’ll find the maximum weight and, in some cases, height.

Crash dynamics don’t make any distinctions

When you’re in a car, you’re exposed to all of the forces of a collision. To put things in perspective, your weight is multiplied by the speed at which you were traveling when a car crashes or suddenly stops.

A seatbelt is designed to fit an adult male standing at least 1,5m tall. As an adult, the seatbelt catches you and all of your weight and distributes the impact force across your shoulder, diagonally across your chest, and across your pelvis.

Let’s look at it from the perspective of a 15kg child in a 60km/h car. Someone darts across a stop street, and you slam on your brakes to avoid colliding with them. Your child weighs 900 kilograms at the time. That 900kg will be projected through your car and, more than likely, ejected through one of the windows if your child is not restrained in any way. Children have been found up to 150 metres away from the car. Seventy-five percent of children who are ejected do not survive, and those who do are usually permanently disabled.

Where does the seatbelt go if a child under 1,5m tall uses the car seatbelt without the support of a full back, seatbelt positioning booster seat? Remember that, in the case of a child, the seatbelt is designed to distribute the full force of the crash to their underdeveloped neck and unprotected belly. The body of a child is still developing, and their organs are safely protected by the ribcage once they reach adulthood. The full-back provides side impact protection and support for the head and neck, in addition to safely positioning the seatbelt. A full-back booster is essential because it shields your child from the seatbelt as well as the forces and debris of a collision.

Safety checks

Your child must be able to pass all five steps of a five-step test to be completely ready to use the car seatbelt without the use of a booster seat:

  1. Is it possible for them to sit with their back against the backrest and their legs flat on the seat?
  2. Are their knees bending over the car seat’s edge, and their feet flat on the floor?
  3. Is the shoulder belt straight and smooth across the chest, between the neck and shoulder?
  4. Is the lap belt positioned low across the thighs or pelvis, away from the belly button?
  5. Will they be able to sit comfortably in the above position for the duration of the trip?


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