#CarseatFullstop’s core mission is to share as much information as possible on car seat safety. We focus strongly on educating people around extended rear-facing (ERF) car seats. This is because it is 5 times safer than placing a child in a forward-facing car seat too soon.
The reality is that there are many many people in South Africa that simply cannot afford an ERF car seat. That does not make you a bad parent or mean that you care less about your child! A solid forward-facing car seat, installed properly, still provides your child with safety and protection from harm.
It isn’t only about cost either. There are some South African cars that the ERF car seats do not fit properly. It’s important to remember that a car seat of any orientation is only going to keep your child safe if it fits in YOUR car. The seat has to be installed according to the instruction manual. It must be fitted so that there is only minimal movement of the seat once installed. An affordable properly installed forward-facing car seat is safer than a R10,000 rear-facing seat that doesn’t fit correctly.
#CarseatFullstop, will never ever approve moving a child into a forward-facing car seat before they outgrow an infant seat at 13kgs. At the very minimum. A baby’s neck does not have the strength to support their head in an accident. Whiplash can be excrutiating for an adult. For a 9 month old baby whose head makes up 25% of it’s body weight, held up by a neck that has not developed enough to support that head, it can lead to spinal cord damage and even death.
It can be tempting to parents to purchase a “stages” car seat that is sold as usable from birth to 25kgs. While we appreciate the financial temptation of such an investment, we strongly urge you to start with an affordable solid built-for-purpose exclusively rear-facing infant seat that goes up to 13kgs – not 9kgs. Thereafter, we have to support the parents who can genuinely only afford one more seat. This forward-facing car seat that has to keep their child safe until they are tall enough to move to a regular seat belt. This is usually at 1.5m tall, between the ages of 10 and 12 years old.
There has been a wave of concern in the South African parenting community lately, around whether car seats have been “independently crash tested”. The top car seat brands in South Africa all invest large sums of money into testing their seats.
This is wonderful and adds a layer of peace of mind for parents, because these seats are tested and given public scores. This means that you can choose the safest seat in a particular range, and the safest tested seat available in the country with investigation. This testing costs a lot of money and these brands choose to invest that money, which is then included in the pricing of the seats.
There are however safe brands that have not submitted their seats for additional testing, that still hold a very important space in a market like South Africa. These seats are still tested in Belgium or the Netherlands and they adhere to the strict criteria of the ECE regulations. This testing is not inferior to the independent testing. The issue that some have with it, is that the results are not published. So a seat that just scraped through testing is given the same approval as a seat that exceeded every criteria.
There are brands that believe completely in the safety of their seats. They do extensive research before investing in their seats. They have weighed that up with the high costs of further testing. And they decide to keep the car seats affordable for the segment of the South African market that they serve.
The bottom line
First prize is to save up for as long as possible to invest in an extended rear-facing car seat. There are two seats in South Africa that rear-face up to 25kgs! That means your child is 5 times safer in a car accident up to around 5 or 6 years old. Second prize, a car seat that rear-faces up to 18kgs, around the ages of 3 – 4 years old. The bare minimum is an infant seat that rear-faces up to 13kgs. It must have a good recline angle, which prevents baby’s head from flopping forward.
If your finances only allow you to rear-face your child up to 13kgs, be selective when buying a forward-facing car seat. Ensure the seat has several recline positions. Check that the head rest is easily adjustable to protect your child’s head and neck as best it can. Make sure one of its selling points is SIP (Side Impact Protection).
The prerequisites for all car seats are:
- You must fit the seat in your car using the car seat manual. Ensure that it gets a solid installation.
- You must fit your child into the car seat and ensure that they appear safe and comfortable.
- No child under 13kgs or 1 years old should ever forward face for any reason.
- Secure every child properly in a car seat suited to their height, weight and developmental age.
- Ensure you securely fasten every child into a properly installed car seat every single time they get into a car.
- There is no distance short enough to take the risk.
#CarseatFullstop. Every child. Every time. No matter what.