The single most important investment you make for your child
Car passenger deaths are the fourth leading cause of non-natural death in our children1,2 and, along with pedestrian deaths, the second leading cause of injury death in children under 143. Five children die as passengers in our cars on our roads every day4.
Car seats reduce the risk of death by up to 71%. A high back booster seat reduces the chance of serious injury by 45% in kids between the ages of 4 and 8, compared to those in seat belts alone5. And yet, a 2016 study by the Automobile Association of South Africa says that less than 7% of South African children that need car seat are in car seats.
International leaders in car seats and car seat safety, BeSafe, has teamed up with national car seat awareness initiative #CarseatFullstop and NPO Wheel Well, to share as much information, awareness and best practice for car seats and car seat safety specifically with the South African market.
A car seat is the single most important investment you can make for your child. It is the only thing that there is absolutely no alternative for. It is not something you should be shopping for looking for a bargain. If you are planning to start a family, make saving for the best possible car seat a priority. If your new arrival is a pleasant surprise, cut back on all extras for a few months (DSTV, takeout), sell the extra items you have around your house, encourage family and friends to donate to your “car seat fund” for your baby shower, or even your little one’s first birthday.
There are three stages of car seats. The infant seat (0-13kgs, up to 75cm), the toddler seat (9-18kg, 105cm /-25kg, 115cm) and the high back booster seat (15-36kg, 150cm). Each of these seats are designed to protect your child at that specific stage in their physical development, to give them the very best chance to survive a car crash.
A car’s seat belt is designed to evenly distribute the forces of a crash to the strongest part (chest and pelvis) of an adult male of 1.5 metres tall. On a child under 1.5m tall, usually between the ages of 10 and 12 years old, the seat belt distributes that crash force to your child’s underdeveloped neck and their belly – containing their major organs.
This means that every child from birth to roughly 10 years old need the support of a car seat, specifically designed for their height and stage of development, to be safe from the massive forces of a car accident.
There are reports from across the world that give varying percentages, but there is consistent support of the fact that the majority of car accidents happen close to home. While these are not always high speed accidents, at only 40km per hour the blow to your unrestrained child’s head making contact with any part of the car is the same as dropping them from 6 meters (a second story balcony) onto concrete. So even if you are heading “just up the road” or you never travel further than a few blocks from home, your child needs to be properly buckled into their car seat every time.
There are many considerations in choosing a car seat. At the end of the day, the safest car seat for you is the best one you can afford that installs safely in your car and matches the weight, height and age needs of your child.
In terms of car seat costs6, there are two distinct “levels” of car seats in South Africa. But it is not the cost that distinguishes them from one another.
The “affordable” car seats are designed to meet basic safety requirements and manufactured in large quantities in China. Local distributors select the seats they feel will do well, recover them and rebrand them. This does not mean these seats are unsafe at all, but there isn’t a way to know whether they passed the basic crash test by a percentage point or with flying colours.
“Expensive” car seats in South Africa, like the BeSafe range of car seats, are extensively researched, designed, built, crash tested, improved on, and crash tested again – up to hundreds of times before they are submitted for the basic external crash testing. There are large sums of money invested in research and development, ensuring these car seats are as safe as they can possibly be before they even leave the manufacturers. Costs are then added, the best materials, labour in Europe, shipping costs from overseas, 20% import duties and 14% VAT. It all adds up. It isn’t the name on the seat, but the investment to ensure that they are 100% convinced that your child is as safe as they can be.
A personal recommendation on the safest car seat available in South Africa, from Mandy Lee Miller, creator and director of national car seat awareness initiative, #CarseatFullstop, is the BeSafe iZi Plus. “I chose this car seat for the #CarseatFullstop initiative as the representation of everything a car seat should be. It is also the seat my 3-year-old daughter is in. It is one of only two car seats in South Africa that allow the use of the 5-point harness past 18kg, up to 25kgs. It is also an exclusively rear-facing car seat for that entire time, and rear-facing your child is the safest way for them to travel. It is of the highest quality and it is one of the most affordable extended rear-facing car seats available in South Africa.”
For more on all things car seat and car seat safety in South Africa, be sure to attend the #CarseatFullstop presentations in the Huggies Experts Lounge at Mama Magic Cape Town on Friday 27th at noon, Saturday 28th at 16h30 and Sunday 29th at 10h00. You can also find Mandy Lee Miller at the BeSafe stand (F17) all day on Friday and Sunday, and on Saturday afternoon.
1 South African Medical Research Council
2 Annual report for South Africa based on the National Injury Mortality Surveillance System (NIMSS) 2008
3 Stats SA, Mortality and causes of death in South Africa, 2015
4 Injury Mortality Survey of 2011
#CarseatFullstop is a national car seat awareness initiative that launched in July 2016. Our goal is to continue to create and maintain high levels of awareness of the critical importance of child safety seats in every child under the age of 12. We offer well researched, educated, responsible guidance for South African families to keep their little ones safe on our roads.
About Mandy Lee Miller
Mandy Lee Miller is the Cape Town based mom who created #CarseatFullstop. She is an accomplished media and PR entrepreneur with a background in Public Relations and Marketing. She is currently a fixture in the online parenting community as owner and Editor in Chief of online parenting magazine, Tums 2 Tots online and owner/author of her personal parenting blog, Pregnant in Cape Town & Ever After. Mandy has added consulting, speaking and education on car seats and car seat safety to her business profile. Mandy runs her businesses from home, where she and her husband raise their three-year-old daughter – and the inspiration of all of her businesses, including #CarseatFullstop – Charlotte (Charly) Rose.
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Written by Mandy Lee Miller, #CarseatFullstop creator, director and consultant