The Legal Bit!
A child must be a height of 135cm or 12 years old before they can travel in a car without an appropriate car seat. This means that any child below 135cm must be in a car seat.
The Safety Bit!
Legal does not mean safe. All cars are designed and built for adults. If your child does not have the height, weight and bone structure of an adult, then they are too small for the safety features within a car that are designed to keep the travelling occupants safe in a collision. Seat belts are designed to fit an adult of a minimum height of 150cm. Therefore if your child is 135cm in height, although they will legally be allowed to sit in the car without a seatbelt, they will not be safe as the seat belt won’t sit correctly across their body.
Air bags are also designed for adults. If your child likes to sit in the front of the car, move the seat as far back from the dashboard as possible. If the air bag deploys it can seriously harm your child including internal decapitation. Not a pleasant thought. A child does not have the height, weight and bone structure to cope with the force that the air bag creates. Air bags, like everything else in the car, are designed for ADULTS and are only a safety feature when being used in conjunction with a seat belt.
If you put an infant carrier in the front passenger seat then you must ensure that the front airbag is switched off.
To check if your child is safe in an adult seat belt, have them sitting squarely on the seat. Their knees should reach the end of the seat and create a right angle to the feet. The seat belt should sit squarely in the middle of the shoulder and cross the middle of the torso diagonally to the hip. If the seat belt is too close or too high on the neck then the seat belt is not in the correct position and will not react correctly in a collision which could cause serious harm.
Does your child like to put their seat belt under their arm? This is probably because they are too small for the adult seat belt and it is uncomfortable on them. They need an appropriate car seat to put the seat belt in the correct position across their body. If the seat belt is under their arm when the car is in a collision it can cause some serious internal injuries. Also with the seat belt incorrectly across their lower torso, there is nothing stopping their upper body from being flung forward in the collision creating a higher likelihood of serious upper body injury.
Why have Car Seats?
Car seats are designed to carry your child safely in a vehicle that has been designed for adults. There are thousands of different car seats on the market to suit all budgets. The younger the child, the more padding and harnessing the child needs in order to protect them in a car. Not all car seats fit all cars, so check with the manufacturer before purchasing a seat. Most car manufacturers list the car seats that have been tested in their cars.
Booster seats are designed to lift a child up just enough to help the seat belt fit correctly on a child. These seats are only for children who are too big for a high back booster seat but too small for the adult seat belt.
High back booster seats are preferable as they offer side impact protection and most of them guide the seat belt to sit correctly on the child.
Please read through the attached leaflet for more information.
Road Safety Education Consultant
Unfortunately not the ones with chocolate chips.
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