Getting your child’s car seat just right for their age and height

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When is your child ready to wear a vehicle’s seatbelt? (Image: Supplied)
When is your child ready to wear a vehicle’s seatbelt? (Image: Supplied)

We all know that a car seat is required, but with so many to choose from, how do you know which is most appropriate to use for every stage of your little one’s growing years?

Last year’s Automobile Association (AA) of South Africa survey revealed that as many as 93% of little ones are not sufficiently strapped in to survive a car accident. Children who are not safely restrained are at higher risk of serious injury or death than those who are, even if a crash occurs at a slower speed.

While it’s important to have the most appropriate car seat for a child at each stage of development, correct installation is also crucial when it comes to safety. According to the AA, a correctly installed safety seat has been shown to help reduce the need for hospitalisation by up to 69% following an accident.

So, what do you need to consider when choosing correct safety seats for your child? Here are some factors to consider when matching your child’s age, size and weight with the most appropriate seat throughout their development… 

1. For babies

Weight and height range benchmarks:

  • New born to 13kg
  • 75 - 80cm tall (approximately)

The best seat to use: Rear-facing car seat

The very first car seat a new parent will need is one that is rear-facing. In general, these seats have been proven to be the safest option.

Rear-facing seats are also suitable for preemies and infants who are very small. Small babies can be comfortably and safely placed in a semi-reclined position within these seats.

While many car seats state that rear-facing seats are suitable for young babies up to the age of about 12 months, studies have shown that rear – facing is 5x safer than forward facing car seats.

It is recommended that children rear face for as long as possible.

A general rule of thumb is that once the top of your baby or toddler’s head reaches the highest point of the car seat, a new seat is required.

Why are rear facing seats preferred -

Rear-facing seats are designed (and have been tested) to ‘cradle’ a child should an accident occur. This helps to reduce as much stress and injury to the neck and spinal cord as possible during a crash. 

2. For young children

Weight and height range benchmarks:

  • Between 9kg - 18kg
  • 80 - 105cm tall (approximately)

The best seat to use: An age / weight and height appropriate car seat adjusted according to your child’s body.

These seats are bulkier and provide ample leg space for your child as he or she grows. Your little one will likely make use of this seat for at least three to four years (or until the maximum height and weight specifications are reached).

Your child will have outgrown the seat when his or her shoulders no longer fit comfortably beneath the headrest when sitting upright.

3. For older children

Weight and height range benchmarks:

  • Between 15kg - 36kg
  • 105cm – 135cm tall (approximately)

The best seat to use: A belt positioning booster seat (high-back)

Booster seats help to elevate a child safely in the back-passenger seats of a vehicle until the built-in seatbelt can be comfortably placed over the strongest portions of the body.

A high-back booster seat is best to use once your little one has outgrown his / her toddler car seatThese safety seats work well in vehicles with built-in headrests and low seat backs. They can also be used comfortably with lap and shoulder seatbelts built-in to a vehicle. 

Some booster seat varieties come with a clip or guide to assist with installation in the correct position so that lap and shoulder belts sit comfortably over a child’s body.

Booster seats typically need to be used until a child is between the ages of 10 and 12, after which he or she will likely have grown into sufficient height to use a vehicle’s built-in seatbelt. (1.5m or taller)  

In general, your child will have outgrown their seat when the applicable height and weight specifications allowed for the seat and harness have been reached.

Other indications include:

  • Your child’s shoulders no longer sit comfortably beneath the top harness slots
  • The tips of your child’s ears have reached the top of the car seat

When is your child ready to wear a vehicle’s seatbelt?

When a seatbelt can be worn comfortably across the shoulder and middle of the chest without making contact with the neck or throat, additional safety seats are no longer needed.

Your child must be tall enough to sit comfortably upright (without slouching) in the back passenger seat with knees bent over the seat edge. Your child must also be able to comfortably remain seated in this position for the duration of a trip.

This post and content is sponsored, written and provided by Discovery Insure.

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