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Safely restraining your child in a vehicle

By M. O’Neil

Allowing your child to ride in a car without the proper restraint puts not only your child’s life at risk but also the life of the other passengers in the car. According to the World Health Organization, when a crash occurs, three phases or collisions happen. The first collision occurs between the car and the object it strikes.

The second collision occurs between unrestrained occupants and stationary objects within the car, such as seats, windows, windshield and dashboards. Finally, the third collision happens when the internal organs of the car occupants collide with the chest wall or skeletal structure of the occupant.

The World Health Organization (WHO) suggests that the majority of fatal injuries that occur in car crashes are a result of the second collision. When unrestrained, occupants will move through the car at the same rate of speed that the crash occurred at through momentum. Unrestrained or improperly restrained occupants can collide with stationary objects or suffer ejection from the car. An unrestrained occupant can also collide with other car occupants, resulting in serious head or organ injuries.

Whenever you are on the road, make sure you buckle up all child passengers. The safest place to restrain a child in the car properly is on the back seat. All children aged 12 and under should ride in the back seat. Airbags can kill young children riding in the front seat. Never place a rear-facing car seat in the front seat or in front of an airbag.

To restrain your child safely in the back seat, use a seat belt on every trip, no matter how short it is. This sets a good example. Buckle up children on the car seat or booster seats depending on their corresponding age, height or weight.

The following will guide you on the appropriate ways to restrain your child, depending on the age bracket:

  • From birth up to 2 years, use rear-facing car seat. For the best possible protection, keep infants and children in a rear-facing seat. Then use the car seat belts to harness the rear-facing seat to the back. Continue doing so until they reach the upper weight or height limits of a forward-facing car seat. Check the rear-facing seat’s manual for weight and height limits.
  • From 2 years, up to at least age 5, purchase a forward-facing car seat. Connect the forward-facing seat to the back and buckle it with safety belts. The use of the forward- facing seat should continue until the kids reach the recommended upper weight or height limit of a booster seat. Again, check the forward-facing seat’s manual for weight and height limits.
  • From 5 years, up to age 9 a booster seat will be more appropriate. Once children outgrow their forward-facing seats, they should ride in belt positioning booster seats. Remember to keep children in the back seat for the best possible protection at all times.
  • When the seat belts fit properly, let the child use the car’s seat belts. Seat belts fit properly when the lap belt lays across the upper thighs, not the stomach, and the shoulder belt fits across the chest, not the neck. For the best possible protection, keep children in the back seat and use lap-and-shoulder belts.