Kids are mysterious creatures. They’re terrified of a “monster-shaped” shadow on the ceiling cast by a nightlight, but they’d gleefully run into traffic if your quick hands weren’t there to grab them.
Kids aren’t born with an innate sense of caution around cars. They have to be taught. Even for adults, common sense doesn’t always prevail when it comes to car safety. Sometimes we’re really, really tired. Sometimes we’re distracted by fighting siblings. But there are certain safety rules that need to be etched so indelibly into our subconscious that they become like a reflex.
Here are five rules to keep kids safe around cars.
1. Don’t leave a child alone in the car
This might seem like a no-brainer, but there are lots of reasons why you might be tempted to leave your child in the car. Maybe you’re just running in to pay for petrol. Maybe she’s finally fallen into a hard-won sleep in her seat and you don’t want to wake her.
There is no good reason to leave a child in a car unattended.
According to Kid Safe NSW, “On a typical Australian summer day, the temperature inside a parked car can be as much as 30 degrees to 40 degrees hotter than the outside temperature.” In other words, it’s unthinkably hot, and kids don’t tolerate heat like adults. They lose fluids quickly, they overheat and they can die.
If that’s not enough, leaving a child unattended in a car is illegal under Section 231 of the Children and Young Persons (Care and Protection) ACT 1998 – and the penalty for breaking the law is $22,000.
Even in an air-conditioned car, with parents present, our summer sun can stream in the windows making kids and babies too hot. Britax’s super soft, smooth Thermo5 fabric is made from knitted Bamboo Charcoal that provides airflow and wicks away moisture. Your child stays cool and dry, and less likely to spend the hour drive to nan’s house screeching in the back seat.
There are seven car seats in the luxurious Thermo5 range, in various sizes to suit children from birth until 10 years. We think the Safe-n-Sound Unity Baby Capsule ISOFIX seat is genius because it’s so easy to install properly and has excellent side impact protection.
2. Do teach kids to look and listen before crossing the street
It’s not enough for kids to just use their eyes, especially when you witness how some kids “look” before they cross. My five-year-old opens his eyes wide, rolls them up to the sky and turns his head from side to side. How he thinks he can see anything that way, I’m not sure, but clearly he’s not going to see approaching cars.
Recent studies have found that although kids aged up to about seven years can understand the need to cross the road at a safe time and place, in real life situations it’s not until about the age of 10 that they can actually put that into practice consistently on their own.
Before crossing, kids should stop and ask themselves some questions. Can I hear any cars nearby? Where are they? Can I see any cars, or any headlights? Can I smell anything? This last one might seem strange, but with their superhuman sense of smell, kids might even be able to smell exhaust if you teach them how to pay attention to it.
3. Do teach kids to never play in the driveway
It might be tempting for kids to play in a driveway. It’s flat, often paved and just the place to draw a hopscotch grid, roll around on your scooter or go bug hunting. Kids should be taught that driveways are just like streets, and they should be treated with caution. Even driving slowly, a driver who doesn’t see a child playing in a driveway can do unthinkable damage.
Kids should also stop and cross driveways just like they cross the street. Cars often come barrelling out of a driveway with a single goal – to slip into a space in traffic. They’re not looking for kids walking or playing on the footpath.
On average, one child is run over in their own driveway every week in Australia – an alarming statistic which ought to prompt us to action.
4. Do keep the car seat rear-facing for as long as possible
Did you know that rear-facing is the safest car seat position, even for kids as old as two or three? In an accident, force drives passenger bodies forward. Since we’ve got seatbelts on, our heads and necks bear the brunt of that forward force. That’s why whiplash is a thing.
With kids, this force is especially dangerous. Their heads are bigger in proportion to their necks and bodies, and so the force is even harder for their little necks to handle. Also, their vertebrae are soft, and not developed enough to protect their spines when put under a lot of force.
Rear-facing car seats fully support a child’s head and neck in an accident, and can save them from serious injury. Australian Standards recommend rear-facing to six months. Britax recommends rear-facing for as long as you can for a minimum of 12 months – ‘Rear for a Year’!
Britax Safe-n-Sound have a range of convertible car seats which allow for extended rear-facing – that is, up to approximately 30 months.
5. Do choose the correct car seat for your child’s age, height and weight
Just like adults, kids come in different shapes and sizes. Some are long, some are chubby, some are teeny tiny. Because of this variation, age on its own is not a good indicator of the type of car seat your child should have. A small three-year-old could ride in a rear-facing car seat, while his tall two-year-old brother might be impossibly cramped.
The best way to work out what car seat your child needs is to consider their height and weight alongside their age. In a rear-facing seat, once a child’s head is within two centimetres from the top, she’s grown out of the seat.
Shoulder height markers make it easy for parents to determine if a child car seat is suitable for their child and when the child needs to move to the next child car seat.
Height markers, located on the inner side of the seat, prompt parents and carers to ensure their child’s seat and associated harnesses are moved or adjusted at the right stages of the child’s development, to maintain optimised safety.
In a front-facing seat, she’s too big when her shoulder level is above the top harness slot.
Child Car Seats is an initiative of the Child Restraint Evaluation Program, and includes government and motorist bodies. The website includes a handy car seat comparison tool to help you find the best seat for your child.
(This is a sponsored post for Britax)