Seat belts and car seats

With new campaigns to get kids buckled up in the car, Time Out Kids adds its weight to the issue

We’re a pretty laid back bunch at Time Out Kids, but if there’s one thing that really gets our goat it’s seeing kids running wild in the back of a car or, even worse, sitting in the front on the passenger’s or – aaargh! – the driver’s knee. It never ceases to amaze us just how many nutter parents are out there, and we’re still flabbergasted that child restraints are not yet mandatory in the UAE.

But come on, mums and dads, you don’t need a law to tell you that buckling your kids up, makes sense. The UAE has one of the highest rates of road deaths in the world, yet, according to 2008 research from the UAE University, a whopping 98 per cent of children in this country are not restrained when they travel. In the same study, almost a quarter of kids travelled in the front seat – and that is illegal in the UAE. A car seat can make the difference between life and death, even in a minor crash. Research has shown that seats are 71 per cent effective in reducing the risk of injury and death for infants, and 54 per cent effective for toddlers. Booster seats are 69 per cent more effective than seat belts alone when it comes to protecting older kids.

That’s why we’re delighted that BMW Group Middle East is attempting to increase road safety awareness with its ‘Stay Alert, Stay Alive’ initiative. Until the age of seven, children’s bones are still forming and their skull and ribcage are extremely flexible. This means any impact can result in significant deformation of the head and brain, or damage to the heart, lungs and other internal organs, says BMW, who last month handed out 4,000 child safety booster cushions at awareness days in Dubai and Abu Dhabi, and have committed to giving away a total of 10,000.

So why on earth would parents take the risk? As Dr Jens Thomsen, head of the Health Authority of Abu Dhabi’s Road Safety Programme says, ‘Children cannot be expected to decide on how best to protect themselves: that responsibility is solely in the hands of their parents.’ We agree 100 per cent. There are plenty of quality car seats and booster cushions out there. Just make sure they adhere to the UN safety guidelines and that you fit them properly:

Infants up to 1 year
A rear-facing car seat provides the best protection until bubba is both one year of age and weighs at least 13kg.

Toddlers aged 1-4 years
A child safety seat secures your tot and spreads the crash force over a wide area. It should last until either the child’s weight exceeds 18kg or they grow too tall for the seat.

Small children aged 4-6 years
A booster seat works by raising the child to the correct height for the car’s adult seat belt to work properly and has a seat back to provide additional protection. It should be used until the child is around 145cm tall.

Children aged 6-11 years
Booster cushions without backs are designed for nippers weighing 22-36kg, although some manufacturers now produce seats with backs covering the full weight range.

Excuses, excuses

If you’ve ever uttered any of the following, shame on you
My kids go off on one if we try to buckle them up
What are you? A mum or a mouse? Rules are rules and being strapped in safely is simply not up for negotiation. Pop bub in a car seat on his very first trip home from hospital and do it every single time you get in the car, then he’ll grow up knowing this is the norm and won’t quibble.

Car seats are too expensive
We know parents are forever being asked to dip into their pockets for the latest ‘must-have’ kiddie gadget, but this is one area where you can’t afford to scrimp. There are cheaper options out there, just make sure they conform to UN ECE R44 safety guidelines.

My child is too small/big for a car seat
Rubbish! There’s a wide range of seats available for the teeniest of babies all the way up to 36kg, or around 11 years old. Only when their knees bend at the edge of the seat, the shoulder belt rests on their shoulder and the lap belt rests on the hips can they come out of a booster seat and use an adult seatbelt.

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