Working out which type of child car seat will keep your brood safest on the road can be confusing, especially with all of the different types of seat available and conflicting advice about which to go for and how best our little people should travel. What we all know is that the kiddos need to be strapped in safely – Deema Hussein, Traffic Awareness Senior Manager at the RTA says ‘The RTA strongly advises the use of Car seats for children from newborn to 6 years old. Infant car seats must be placed on the back seat facing the rear of the vehicle, so that when the driver suddenly pushes the break, the neck does not get pressured. When the child is older, the child can face the front of the vehicle.’
With the help of Miranda Hilton, CEO and Chief Mum of Family Souk Ventures and Middle East representative for Phil & Teds, we’ve answered a few of your car seat questions to help cut through the confusion and make sure the kiddos are riding right mamas!
I sometimes buckle up in the back with my child in my lap, letting the seat belt cover us both. Is that safe?
No this is not safest way for your child to travel. You child should occupy their own car seat and where they have outgrown all suitable car seats, they should occupy their own seats and seat belts.
What about infant carriers (BabyBjorn, Ergo and the likes) and traffic safety? Can I sit with my baby in the carrier and put the seat belt around us both?
Whilst this may seem secure for you and baby, this is not a safe way to travel. In the case of a crash, your head may be thrown forward which would mean your chin would collide with the soft part of your baby’s head, quite aside from the fact that a baby carrier has not been crash tested as it’s not meant to be used for this purpose.
If you are travelling with your baby in a taxi, take your infant capsule car seat (secure it with the seatbelt in the taxi) and take your stroller which is compatible with it – when you arrive at your destination, attach your capsule to the stroller.
What is the safest way to travel in taxis (when car seats aren’t an option)?
When travelling you should use your own appropriate car seat for your baby in every type of vehicle, and attach it securely with a seat belt – infant capsule car seats are always an option – take your own! It takes a few minutes to secure the safety seat correctly, but using one is very important. When buying your stroller ensure it’s ‘travel system friendly’ – then you can take your buggy in the taxi and when you’re at your destination, simply attach the capsule to your buggy.
If travelling with a toddler or older child, your child should occupy their own seat and seatbelt where possible. You can also access portable booster seats here in the UAE and inflatable booster seats which are suitable from 3 -4 years upwards. The point of a booster seat is to ensure the seatbelt is positioned at the correct level (across the chest and well below neck level) so the height of the child determines if a booster is suitable.
In some countries infants always travel in the front seat with their car seat in reversed position. And in some countries that isn’t required. What is safer?
There are conflicting laws depending on which country you are in. But as far as safety is concerned, there is a consistent message that where there are two rows of seats, infants should always travel in the back seat of a car rear facing. Being as far away from glass is advised and air bags in the front seats can cause additional risk of injury to an infant when released through the impact of a crash. Many research studies suggest that the safest place for an infant is in the middle rear seat where a full seatbelt is installed to secure the car seat – this being the farthest seat from any glass.
Are forward facing car seats as safe as rear facing?
Forward facing and rear facing is so confusing for many parents and the guidelines differ for many countries throughout the world. Here’s a really simple guide:
Why rear face? In the case of a crash, infants are especially at risk for head and spinal cord injuries because their bones and ligaments are still developing. Their spinal structural support is still developing. Inthe rear-facing position, a child’s head, neck and spine are kept aligned. The rear-facing car-seat supports the child’s head and absorbs the force of the crash and cradles the child.
Rear-facing seats give the best support to your child’s head, neck, and spine, and will prevent your child’s head from being thrown away from his or her body. Infants and toddlers should travel in a rear facing car seat for as long as possible (up to the weight and height allowance of the car seat). Many countries now recommend that your child rear face for up to 2 years.
What is more important when choosing a car seat? Weight or height?
A car seat should fit the weight and height of your child. The seat will have been safety tested up to certain weight and height limits and it’s imperative to take both of these into account when selecting an appropriate car seat for your child.
Do car seats/boosters “expire”?
This is a really interesting question. They do have an expiration date and the standard is c.6 years. This is not marketing or car seat companies trying to make more money. Why do they expire? Technologies improve and more research is done. Materials over time and exposed to extreme unpredictable circumstances, for example the extreme heat in the middle east, can wear down. Manufacturing testing is not done consistently on a product – only at the beginning.
To find the expiration date, it is normally located on a label on the car seat OR the manufacture date is stamped on the car seat – 6 years from this date is then the expiry date.
Are toddlers allowed in the front seat (in their booster/car seat) in cars without a back seat?
It is safer for your child to travel in the rear seats in their car seat or booster – less opportunity to hit glass on impact means a safer travelling environment. Legally in most countries, where there is no back seat option (only one row of seats), then it is allowed but not advised.
What are the most common safety hick-ups/mistakes we as parents make?
In the Middle East, unfortunately, one of the most common ones we see is not using a car seat. Regardless of the laws in the Middle East, caring for the safety of our children, and with the roads being unpredictable places to be at the best of times, surely means that we should never compromise on providing the safest travelling environment for our children.
When we do use car seats, many parents often subconsciously put our own preferences, or presumption of our baby’s preferences first as opposed to their safety – when of course we all have nothing but the utmost fear of our children being hurt. For example, some parents believe that their babies are crying because they don’t like facing the seat (in a rear facing position) and then move them to forward face much sooner than the safety guidelines advise. Many parents will take their baby in a carrier in a taxi, because it seems more convenient – when there are now many travel system friendly strollers on the market which mean that taking the infant capsule shouldn’t even be a question in our minds.
Regardless of the law, one simple piece of advice we can all adhere to is doing the absolute best to protect our children and put them in the safest environment possible in every situation including on the road.
Is using a seatbelt to fasten/stabilize your car seat as safe as using the readily available systems in cars (LATCH, ISO-FIX etc.)?
Using a seatbelt to fasten and stabilize your car seat has been safety tested to be as safe as Isofix. Isofix can feel a little more stable because it tends to not have any movement at all in the seat when fixed but from a safety standpoint, both methods are as safe.
Isofix is often used by parents for newborn to 12 months as a base for an infant capsule for convenience so you can click and unclick and go. But when you’re not removing the car seat to fix to a stroller (ie post the infant capsule stage), the convenience factor disappears and car seats attached with seatbelts still dominate the market share of car seats sold. A number of cars still do not have isofix in the back and there is then no alternative for a number of parents.
My tot manages to get out of the car seat harness because I couldn’t find a houdini to strap onto it. On one hand research shows that the houdini is dangerous as in the case of car accident it could harm the thoracic cage but then getting out of the harness is dangerous too.
A few points to make on this and it’s a common concern. If a standard strap on a car seat is tightened to the proper level of restraint, it should be very difficult for a child to get out of the harness. However in the US, the Houdini concept (a strap which quite simply brings the two shoulder straps together to make it difficult to get out) has been very popular and is standard on most car seats there. Many research tests performed around the world have found it to be safe and confirmed that it does not to interfere with the performance of any part of the car seat; and in tests performed, it did not move up and have contact with the throat area.
However, it is another piece of equipment to think about and ensure you are using it absolutely safely. There is also some research which questions its safety. Another alternative for a child who loves to try and wriggle free, is to consider the fairly recent entry into the car seat market of a roll bar car seat where no chest strap/harness is utilized. It has been proven to more evenly distribute the impact in a crash and encourage a roll approach lessening the impact on the chest. Most major car seat manufacturers have now developed this option from 12 months upwards.
Miranda Hilton is the phil&teds representative in the Middle and gets extensive training on all their products regularly. Miranda has had training on the car seats in New Zealand with the phil&teds certified car seat safety fitters.
For more details on car safety go to www.safercarseats.org