Safety precautions to consider while travelling in a vehicle with your children.

By: - 18th December 2018

Holiday season is a time for children, mothers, and fathers to plan fun trips and outings. We’ve decided to discuss something essential that many people tend to overlook, which is to do with traveling. Even if you pay good attention to road rules, there are other aspects of travel to consider such as how to behave in a vehicle and also the type of accidents that can happen inside a vehicle.

Some parents, out of sheer confidence, do not stop and think about the safety precautions that are needed when taking kids in your own vehicle. However, an accident can happen for the smallest reason. We often see how kids, out of childish ignorance, stand and switch from one side to the other while traveling in the vehicle. Therefore, we will be discussing how to ensure the safety of your children while traveling inside a vehicle.

Use of a car seat

The safest way for a child to travel in a vehicle is by using a safety seat, also known as a ‘car seat’. Although in developed countries, these seats are mandatory for babies and toddlers to use when traveling in vehicles, only very few people use them in Sri Lanka. This can be attributed to ignorance and not knowing the importance of these car seats.

You are able to avoid many accidents by using a car seat until the child comes to an age that is suitable for wearing a seat belt. When doing so, it is also essential to pay special attention to whether the car seat is properly fixed to the seat of your vehicle. You also need to consider the most appropriate safety seat for your child, because even children of the same age have different heights and weights.

Different types of safety seats:
  1. Baby/infant-only car seats: For children up to around 3 years of age, there are safety seats that can be kept opposite to the direction in which the vehicle moves. These are usually suitable for children who weigh up to 8 kg.
  2. Infant-toddler car seats: Safety seats that are fixed in the normal way with crisscross seat belts are usually suitable for children that are 2+ years, and for those that weigh between 18-28 kg.
  3. Belt-positioning booster seats: For children of ages 4-12 years, booster seats are suitable until the child is 4 feet and 9 inches in height.

As a child in a safety seat has free hands, you can give them a small, simple toy that cannot be easily damaged in order to keep them occupied depending on the distance.

Older children can use seat belts

For children who are over the height margin of 4 feet and 9 inches, the normal vehicle seat belt that runs from shoulder to the lap is suitable to wear. It is important to correctly wear both the straps stretching from the collar bone and the chest to the lap and thighs. These seat belts should never run across the neck or the stomach, as in an accident, this could cause the neck to strain, spine to be harmed and the stomach to be pressed damaging internal organs.

Although little ones like to travel in the front seat of vehicles, this is not safe as they are not tall enough for seat belts. Using a seat belt on a child who is not tall enough can cause injuries. Therefore, the child should always be in a safety seat that is fixed to the back seat of your vehicle.

It is also advisable that newborn babies are carried in an appropriate safety seat rather than in your arms. A sudden brake can easily loosen your grip on the child, so it is important to be informed of proper safety measures. In such cases, both the mother as well as the baby can be at risk.

In developed countries, your child is required to meet the five requirements mentioned below in order to be able to wear seat belts.

  1. Is your child capable of travelling with their backs resting on the seat for a longer period of time?
  2. Are your child’s knees and backbone at a 90 degree angle?
  3. Does the seat belt run across the shoulders and the chest?
  4. Is the seat belt that runs across the lap and thighs placed at the bottommost position?
  5. Is your child able to travel until the destination with a seat belt on?

We hope that you will take into consideration the use of a car seat for babies and younger children and seat belts for older, taller children to ensure the safety of our loved ones while travelling.

Mr. Iranga N Aluthge, Senior Lecturer, School of Physiotherapy and Occupational Therapy, Colombo

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