Thursday 22 February 2018

The right fit - car seats

No one likes to think of a child dying or being seriously injured in a car crash, and yet three out of four car seats are still not fitted correctly in Ireland, writes Sorcha Corcoran

'If your child's car restraint is not fitted correctly, it could lead to serious injury or even death in the event of a collision'
'If your child's car restraint is not fitted correctly, it could lead to serious injury or even death in the event of a collision'

Sorcha Corcoran

When you bear in mind that a baby’s chances of survival and avoiding being seriously injured are increased by 90–95pc if a car seat is fitted correctly, it really hammers home how important this aspect of family life is.

Paul Kealy, managing director of baby shop Tony Kealys, cites this statistic, noting that three out of four car seats are still fitted incorrectly, according to the Road Safety Authority (RSA). “A car seat that is ill fitted will not work as it’s designed to in a crash and the risk to a child’s life is greatly increased,” he says.

RSA research shows that over half of all child car seats checked would have provided little or no protection to the child in the event of a crash.

In an effort to address this worrying problem and improve awareness of the need to fit child car restraints correctly, the RSA is running the ‘Check it Fits’ roadshow again, visiting Carlow, Mullingar, Portlaoise, Cavan and Monaghan between 4 May and 8 May.

Experts will be on hand at each venue to show people free of charge how to correctly install child restraints in cars as well as providing advice on whether the restraint you’re using is suitable for your child and your car.

“Over the past five years, experts at the roadshow have checked more than 4,000 child car seats across the country and there has been cause for concern, particularly in the number of major adjustments that were required,” says Noel Brett, RSA chief executive.

“If your child’s car restraint is not fitted correctly, it could lead to serious injury or even death in the event of a collision.”

UK child car seat installation expert Mark Bennet says the golden rule for selecting and installing a child car seat is to ensure it is not only appropriate for their age, height and weight, but that it also conforms to EU safety standards.

Since the introduction of the EU Directive in September 2006, it is now mandatory for all children up to 150cm in height (roughly 11/12 years of age) to have an appropriate child restraint. This means using a child car seat, booster seat or booster cushion (see panel on right for more detail on the regulations).

Rearward-facing: a safer option

Kealy says one of the most important messages he wants to get across is to try and ensure your child stays in a rearward-facing infant carrier as long as possible – he recommends until they are either over 13kg, aged around a year and a half or when their head crowns the top of the seat.

“Children are five times safer in a rearward-facing seat, however most Irish parents take them out of rearward-facing seats when they are six to nine months old. My two girls were in rearward-facing seats until they were 18 months and 20 months of age and my boy was out of his when his weight was over the recommended amount at 13 months,” says Kealy.

“Around 80pc of collisions are of the frontal type while 20pc involve a side impact. With a frontal collision, a car goes into the back of you, you go into the back of someone or it’s a head-on collision. In this case, your body is thrown forward, your chest is restrained by a harness or seatbelt and the crash force goes through your head and neck. Your head tries to go forward and you’re relying on your neck muscles to survive that impact.

“If a baby is reward facing with a frontal collision they are pushed into the back of the seat and the impact goes from their bottom to the top of their head.”

He points out that in Scandinavia children are in rearward-facing seats until they are three or four and the American Academy of Paediatritions’ advice is to keep them in this type of seat until they are two years old.

“Parents want to be able to see their baby and that’s why they tend to take them out of the rearward-facing seats, but you can buy special large mirrors for inside your car to get around this problem,” says Kealy.

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