It’s November 14, which means it is Jawaharlal Nehru’s birthday and in honour of his love for children, we celebrate this day as Children’s Day. So while you rush to buy your kids, nephews, nieces and friends some chocolates, toys and other gifts, also consider keeping them happy and safe in cars. And yes, this also means no joy rides with their heads sticking out of windows and sunroofs. Here’s what you can do to keep the precious little ones safe in cars.
Keep them seated at the back
All children must be seated securely in the back seat. It’s a far safer area in a crash and away from front airbags whose deployment force could injure a child or even prove fatal. If you absolutely must have children in the front, you should deactivate the airbags (if your car has that facility). Also buckling yourself and your child together with the same seat belt is a lethal idea. In an impact or even rapid braking your body weight will bear down on your child’s chest.
Babies sit facing backward
Infants must always be belted up in a good quality rear-facing child seat. This is for all infants from birth till about two years of age; basically, well into the age where they can keep their necks firm. In a crash with a rear-facing seat, their neck and head will not snap forward. Do this religiously from when they are young and there won’t be any tantrums getting them to sit in a child seat as they grow older.
Kids sit facing forward
Once they outgrow the rear-facing child seat, and their necks are stronger, kids from 2-8 years old can be belted into forward-facing child seats. Remember to lead by example and make sure everyone is belted in their own seats, adults including.
Booster seats for the older ones
Once your kids reach about 4.0 ft in height you can move them to a booster seat. It is a seat that boosts their sitting height and enables them to sit safely at the right height for the car’s seat belts. This means they are strapped up with the belt running across their chest and not the head and neck.
Isofix is a must
Child seats can be secured to a car’s seat using the seat belts or via specially made universal mounting points known as Isofix. Child seats that use the car’s belt are secure but they can shift a bit, the Isofix system, on the other hand, uses firm mounts on the seat and the car’s frame itself and is thus more secure and stable. If your car has Isofix points you should invest in an Isofix seat.
Doors and windows locked
Almost every car today will have a child lock for the door and also the power windows. The door locks are simple tabs on the door frame (visible when you open the door) that prevent the child operating the door from inside. The window locks cut power to the motors, making the operation of the glass panes impossible.
Don’t leave them alone
Never ever leave kids unattended inside a car, and most certainly not in a locked one. We’ve had cases in India where kids were left inside locked cars, presumably to keep them safe, but then forgotten about or not gotten back to in time, leading to their death due to heat. The safest thing to do is to take them with you.
Look before you leave
The government of India has mandated rear sensors or rear-view cameras in vehicles, primarily to save children from being injured by cars that are backing up. This happens quite often, so look around carefully and slowly back up your vehicle. Also, respect speed limits near schools and playgrounds. It can’t hurt to lose a few seconds of travel time.