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Safe Driving Tips Unrestrained Children

Children very often grow up with the incorrect examples from adults. We are creatures of habit and we do also learn from example. It is no wonder that so few motorists wear seatbelts.

It is proven, many times over, internationally, that your best chances of survival or to minimise injury is to wear a seatbelt. Unfortunately, babies and young children’s bodies are not suited for normal seatbelts thus cots or child seats are necessary to protect the child. Look around you when you drive on our roads. So many motorists allow their children sit, stand, play or scramble around their vehicles with no seat belt discipline whatsoever. In a crash, the results could be disastrous.

There is a lot to consider regarding children traveling in vehicles and here are some of the important things to consider.

Firstly, where an unrestrained child of 10kgs (eg. mother holding baby in her arms) is involved in a crash at 40kph - the baby would exert a force of 300kgs, which no mother can hold. Incidentally, with an adult not wearing a belt who is involved in a crash at 40Kph, multiply the body weight by 30. The results will shock you.

Children should be in a quality child seat with SABS approval. AA Autoshops will be able to assist with quality products at competitive prices. Remember that there are different products for different size / weight children and babies.

Beware of airbags and children. An airbag pops out at over 200Kph and could cause serious injury to a child if they are in the front seat. Always secure children in the rear of the car.

Protecting the young passenger

Children can be severely injured in a minor accident, or even by a sudden stop or turn. A child’s head is large and heavy in proportion to its body, and he/she is likely to be flung forward head first. (An infant with a mass of 4,5 kg who is involved in a collision at 50 km/h can be flung forward to strike with the same impact as an object with a mass of 136 kg!) Suitable restraint is vital if injury is to be avoided. In addition, child-proof locks, where fitted, should be engaged so as to render rear door handles inoperable from inside the car.

The safest place for a child in a car is in an approved restraint system fitted in the centre of the rear seat. Child restraints spread the force of impact over the strongest parts of a child’s body and limit head movement. Purchase only child restraints or seats which bear the mark of the South African Bureau of Standards, and which are sold with full fitting instructions and all nuts, belts or screws needed to fit it.

Remember though, even the best restraint is of little value if its straps are not properly adjusted. You should not be able to fit more than two fingers between the strap and the child. The harness should also be checked for correct adjustment each time the child is buckled in, and may require re-adjusting depending on the thickness of the child’s clothes.

Children should never be carried on a passenger’s lap as they will be flung forward violently in the event of an impact, no matter how tightly they are being held. Two children should never be buckled together in the same harness - when being flung forward they could bang their heads together, possibly with fatal consequences. It can also be fatal to buckle a child and adult together, as the child may suffer internal injuries from being crushed between the adult and the belt.

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