We have heard some surprising and unbelievable myths about children’s car safety since launching The Safety Educator in 2014. Here are our Our Top 10 Kids Car Safety Myths. Please be aware that some of the media in this post has crash test dummies in simulated car accidents, this footage may be disturbing to some adults and children.
1. The safest place for a baby in a car is on their mother’s lap
No, no, never! A baby or child who is not buckled in an age appropriate car seat will become a projectile in a car accident. As well as this, they will be crushed by any other unrestrained person (or object) that is flying through the vehicle upon impact. A good analogy, put some marbles in a tin can, then shake the tin for 5 seconds. In a car accident those marbles would be unrestrained people, the tin would be the moving car.
2. A good place for a children’s car seat is on the front passenger seat of a vehicle
The watermelon in the clip was placed on top of a secured airbag and deployed. This will give you an idea of the force behind airbag deployment in a vehicle, and why children should never ride in the front seat. Injury risk to children aged 12 and under is nearly double in the front seat compared to the back seat of the car, irrespective of restraint type. Children 12 years and under should always sit in the rear seats of a vehicle.
3. Children over four years of age do not need a car seat
Safety experts recommend that children under 150cm/4ft 11in be secured in an age appropriate car seat. 150cm is also the legal minimum height requirement for a child using a adult seat belt in Ireland and also some European countries, such as Germany and France. For children weighing more than 36kg (5st 10lb) but under 150cm/4ft 11in, our advice is to go by height, not weight. UK law states that children up to 135cm/4ft 5in tall must use a car seat in a vehicle (approximately 10 years for boys, 12 years for girls). Use this legislation as a guide to keep your child safe when traveling in a car.
4. I only drive short distances, my child doesn’t need a car seat
The first annual Partners for Child Passenger Safety Fact and Trend Report tapped into the largest source of data on children in motor vehicle crashes, the results of this trend report tell us that:
* Eighty percent of crashes took place 20 minutes or less from home.
* Nearly three out of four crashes (73 percent) happen between 10 a.m. and 8 p.m.
* More than half of crashes occur at speeds less than 45 MPH.
* Only 35 percent of crashes took place at an intersection.
* The majority of crashes involving children occur on local roads and in parking lots, not highways.
Picture this in your mind: You are running late for a meeting with a friend at the mall, she has already been waiting there for you for 10 minutes. You are tired and stressed, and your child hates their car seat. You can’t be bothered with your child’s tantrums and wrestling them into their car seat as you are already running late. You don’t take the extra five minutes required to secure them in the vehicle. Here is what would happen in a car accident when your child is not secured in a car restraint versus taking the extra five minutes to ensure they are safe. A car accident even at low residential speeds could certainly take your child’s life.
5. My baby is safe when they are strapped to me in a structured carrier while in a car or taxi
A Baby Bjorn (or any fabric baby carrier) should NEVER be used as a car seat – even for a short taxi ride. This clip shows a 21mph crash with an infant crash test dummy in a Baby Bjorn – the baby is thrown violently out of the carrier, and hits it’s head – an injury that would cause massive, if not fatal, brain injury to a real child. If a adult wear’s a shoulder belt over the top of the baby carrier, the baby may not be ejected, BUT the adult’s body would certainly CRUSH the baby in a crash. The force of the adult impacting against the child in an accident would be similar to a car being dropped on top of the baby.
6. This contraption which is sold as a “pocket car seat” in many reputable stores will protect your child in a car accident.
The weight and force of the child dummy being ejected from the vehicle can simply not be contained by the piece of material (pocket car seat) that is being used to clip the car seat to the car. Note that this crash test is simulated at low residential speed.
7. Children over 100 centimeters can safely wear an adult seat belt
A vehicle seat belt is built for an adult’s height and weight. A child will not be safe in an accident if they are buckled into a adult seat belt as they will literally “fall out” of the belt – see the clip. Safety legislation is put in place to save lives. United Kingdom law states that you must use an age appropriate child car seat when carrying children up to 135cm/4ft 5in (approximately 10 years for boys, 12 years for girls). Use the legislation to guide you on how to keep your child safe while traveling.
8. The air filled travel mattress that is sold for your children to sleep while you drive
From the seller’s website, “With this inflatable bed your kids can comfortably sleep while you drive.” The mattress will not provide your child with ANY protection in a car accident. The mattress is clearly not safe as you will be able to ascertain from the other crash test videos. How this air mattress is able to be legally marketed and sold we do not know. Please make sure you or your child never, ever travels with an air mattress in a moving vehicle. You will become a projectile in an accident, remember the marbles in the tin can.
9. Three car seats cannot safely fit into the back seat of a normal sized car.
Baby Centre has some good examples of car seats that can fit three across in their article 27 car seats that fit three across in most vehicles.
Here are some additional tips for purchasing your child’s car seat:
- Look for a car seat with the manufactured to Australian or European standards sticker.
- Purchase the seat from an authorised retailer. Cheap copies are readily sold that look identical to the real thing. To avoid copies give the manufacturer a quick call to confirm their authorised sellers in your area.
- Check that the seat fits into the car(s) that it will be used in.
- Look for a 5 point harness until at least four years of age. A car seat that has a 5 point harness is superior to a seat belt and will provide your child better protection in a car accident.
- Look for a car seat with a back tether strap to secure the back of the car seat to the vehicle. The back tether strap will prevent the car seat from rebounding and rotating in a car crash, thus minimising your child’s injuries and giving them better safety protection.
- Head wings and head cushioning
- Side impact Protection
- Look for a car seat that has third party verified crash test results. This can be easily done with Google or by making a quick call to the manufacturer for more information.
10. I can’t afford a car seat for my child, it is to expensive.
A convertible child seat will protect your child’s life from the age of 0 – 4 years in a car accident. From our research a good quality car seat can be purchased for RM1,200+ in Malaysia, maybe cheaper during seasonal sales.
How much money do you spend on upgrading your phone and tech gear every four years in total? In comparison, can you afford a car seat to keep your child safe and free from injury in the car? After your child reaches the maximum manufacturers recommendations for their car seat look for a good booster seat, preferably with a 5 point harness.
If your baby or child doesn’t like sitting in their car seat take a look at our article 20 Tips to Keep Your Baby Happy in their Car Seat.
Help us spread the word on children’s health and safety by sharing this article. Children need not be flung out of vehicles or get injured in accidents any longer, the time has come for every child to be safely secured in an age appropriate car seat.
Maree has over five years of experience in Occupational Health and Safety and in the development of safety standards, training workshops and improvement initiatives. She is passionate about health, safety and education. Maree, a mother of two children, has a Advanced Diploma in OHS and will be graduating soon with a B.Sc. (HSE) from Australia.