They are tiny and delicate and we would do anything in the world to keep our little ones safe, but when it comes to travelling in cars, often parents don't realise some of the more important safety tips about properly restraining your child.
Here are our top tips for keeping your child safe while on a car journey.
1. One of the most common mistakes people can make when travelling in a car with a child (on the occasions where car seats are not available) is to hold your child on your lap. In a crash, the child could be crushed, and even if the adult is wearing a belt, the child would be torn from your arms no matter how tightly they are being held.
2. It is also dangerous to put the seat belt around both you and the child. In fact, the only way that is safe for children to travel in cars is in a child seat that is suitable for their weight and height.
3. Recent figures from the RSA show that in Ireland, as many as 4 out of 5 children are incorrectly restrained in their car seats. Seat belts should not be under their arm or looped under the armrest. On older children, the safety belt should always be looped through the seatbelt shoulder guide on high backed booster seats.
4. You can't use rear-facing child car seats in passenger seats when the airbag is on. If the airbag deploys in front of a rear-facing seat, it could cause serious injury or worse. If you are caught travelling in this way with your child, you could get 3 penalty points on your licence.
5. A baby’s head is five times heavier on their bodies than an adult head on an adult body. Therefore, babies need extra support to protect their neck and head from a whiplash-type injury.
6. It is worth doing your research when it comes to the innovations that are constantly evolving when it comes to car seat safety. The world's first car seat with built-in airbags has just been launched by Maxi Cosi. It is called the AxissFix Air and is suitable from 4 months to 4 years. This new technology has now enhanced the safety of children in forward-facing seats by up to 55% compared to other forward-facing Maxi Cosi car seats. In the case of a collision, two airbags located in the shoulder pads of the harness inflate with cold air within 0.05 seconds, in the direction of travel, to softly cushion the head and neck. The airbags automatically deflate just 1 second after the collision. The AixissFix Air also offers a 360 degrees swivelling seat, so you can choose to have your child facing rearward (up to 87cm/ approx. 2 years) or facing forward. Do your research and find the product that works best for your family, keeping safety in mind.
7. Make sure you check that the child seat you buy will fit into your car and that it will fit into all the seat positions you intend to use it (for example, the back passenger side, the third row in a people carrier, and so on). The manufacturer’s instructions should help you fit the child car seat. However, when you buy it, it is always best to have it fitted by an expert and to be shown how to fit it correctly yourself.
8. Keep calm! It is a rite of passage in every parent's life to have to drive with a screaming baby in the back seat. It is easy to panic or get distracted in a bid to hush your little one, but our advice is to wait until it is safe to pull over to check on your child. It is useful to have a reflective mirror so you can see their little face and they can see yours. At least you know they are ok and they will be reassured by seeing your eyes in the mirror.
9. Don't put them in their seat with a huge coat on. The child will be uncomfortable and are at risk of overheating. It can also be dangerous if you are in a collision as the lack of friction can prevent your child from being restrained correctly. If they are cold, pop a blanket over their clothes.
10. Never cover the car-seat with a blanket if you have a car seat that is portable. Many parents do this to prevent the child from waking or to keep the glaring sun away. There is a risk that your child could overheat if you do this, so instead, position the baby away from the sun's glare or transfer them into a pram where they can sleep a little more comfortably and keep an eye on them.