What’s heart-breaking about some of the road accidents that involve children getting flung out of the car is it could have been prevented. According to the World Health Organisation’s (WHO) Global Status Report on Road Safety 2018, the use of child restraints can lead to at least a 60 per cent reduction in deaths of children involved in road accidents.
However, a study by the Malaysian Institute of Road Safety (MIROS) showed that only 30 per cent of road users in Malaysia use child car seats. We’d like to think that these parents are aware of the importance of using a child car seat but isn’t too sure how to choose one. Hopefully, this will make your quest for a child seat easier and ensure you bring home the right one for your bundle of joy.
First of all, you should check your vehicle’s user manual to see what system it uses as there are several types. To make things easier, most car manufacturers do make their own child seats, like Volvo, so you know the fit is perfect. For the rest of us, most new and modern cars come with ISOFIX, although some make do with a top tether system or one that uses seat belts to secure the child seat to the vehicle. You should also take note of where the seat's anchor-points are in your car for quick and easy installation.
Choose the seat according to your child’s weight range and not the age. Let’s be honest, there are toddlers, who can barely walk but are already the size of a healthy two-year-olds. For the article’s sake, we will assume that your child is of average build, but please choose honestly.
Children should be kept rear-facing until at least two years of age, but ideally until they reach the maximum weight for their safety seats. This dramatically reduces the risk of serious injury in the event of a road accident, and could very well mean the difference between life and death.
To save money in the long run, consider buying a convertible child seat that can go from rear-facing to front-facing to booster. These seats ‘grow’ as your child grows and are more cost-effective than the pair of baby Nikes you bought three weeks ago.
However, these convertible seats cannot be used as carriers. This means you have to work hard to get your child out of the seat and into a stroller.
Alternatively, you could also purchase a type of child seat that can be lifted from the car and fitted into a stroller, which offers the convenience of moving your sleeping babe without risking waking them up. It can also be cheaper than buying a stroller and child seat separately. One downside, though, is you’ll eventually have to buy another seat for them when they outgrow it, and then a booster when they outgrow the front-facing seat.
Whatever seat you choose, make sure to look at the manual and pay attention to installation instructions. If not installed correctly, it could still cause severe injury to the child.
Another vital thing to note is that child seats should be bought new, as they have expiry dates. Also, once a child seat has been in an accident, it may be internally compromised and must be changed to a new seat. The reason for this precaution is that although the seat may look fine on the outside, the material inside may be cracked, warped, or otherwise damaged, making it almost useless in the next crash.
A new child restraint system, or CRS, doesn’t necessarily have to burn a hole in your pocket to be effective. You can easily get a reasonably priced one with ECE R44/04 approval. The ECE R44/04 is a United Nations standard that shows the seat is safer and more capable of protecting the child in the event of a collision. Car seats that have passed all testing and granted approval will have a bright orange label displayed, with its approval license number, type of approval and mass group it has been approved for.
When used correctly, a child seat reduces risk of serious injury or fatality by 70%, especially in children below the age of four. Child safety seats must be positioned on the rear seats, not the front. This is so that they’re positioned away from the front airbags in case an accident happens. If for any reason you must place the seats in front, make sure the airbags are turned off — read your vehicle's manual if you’re unsure how.
As responsible parents, we’re certain you don’t need this reminder, but you should never hold your child on your lap in a moving vehicle. Your arms aren’t strong enough to withstand the force of a collision, potentially causing severe injuries to the child or even death if you’re involved in a crash while holding your child. This is also how the child can be flung out of the car in an accident.
The WHO report stated that in Malaysia, children under four years are insufficiently covered by law in regards to child restraints in vehicles, despite having the third largest road fatality rate in Asia. A law requiring children under a certain height and weight range to be in a CRS was supposed to be enforced next month. However, the change in government has all but silenced the push for better safety. Perhaps, the pandemic also had a had in keeping things on the down low.
As we slowly come out of MCO, and more Malaysians are starting to remember how to drive, now is a good time as any to get a child car seat. Even if it’s not enforced, we don’t need the government of the day to tell us what we should or shouldn’t do for the sake of our children, right?
Of course, there’s no 100% guarantee that nothing will happen to your child if they’re placed in a child seat, but the risk is greatly mitigated. A parent’s first priority should always be their children’s safety, so make sure to always place your child in a CRS when in the vehicle, like the responsible and loving parents we know you are.