Recommendations for driving with kids

BY CANDIECE KNIGHT

Thursday, October 24, 2019

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WHILE the question that your child is most likely to ask on a car ride is, “Are we there yet?”, the question that should be at the fore of your mind is, “Are we getting there safely?” Car safety for most adults is not very hard to figure out — buckle up and go. For children, however, car safety measures and apparatus are dependent on the age and size of the child, and safety requirements change as the child grows older.

Canute Hare, director of the Road Safety Unit in the Ministry of Transport, told All Woman that there is significant room for improvement in our safety practices when travelling with children.

“It is imperative that we not compromise the safety of our children, as they are really our heritage, and in my view we can do a lot better in terms of protecting them on the roads,” he chided.

Highlighting that driving with kids safely requires the right gear along with the right practices, he gave these recommendations:

Have an appropriate car seat

In some countries, the laws are so stringent that you cannot drive out of a hospital with a newborn unless he/she is in a car seat. While this is not enforced locally, motorists are required by law to ensure that babies and small children are carried safely in a child seats.

“Small children (usually, children up to age four) are required to ride in approved child safety seats or to use safety belts. Don't think that an adult can safely hold a child. Even a belted adult cannot protect a child during a collision,” the National Road Safety Council says. All child safety seats are not compatible with all cars or seats in cars. Make certain that your child safety seat will fit the car in which it will be used.

Establish and maintain car rules

“We continue to see people having children roaming around on the back seat of motor vehicles,” Hare lamented. “This is a dangerous practice, as the child will be flung forward in the event of a sudden brake. Train the child so that the child knows the proper car rules from early, so that the child does not depart from them.”

For example, if you insist that the car cannot start until the child is buckled in from an early age, it will eventually become second nature.

Never let a small child sit at the front

“We must be mindful of the fact that we shouldn't put them at the front. There is an airbag at the front and in case that airbag deploys it will deploy violently in 1.5 milliseconds, and that can be very dangerous to children,” Hare insisted.

“Until the child is about 13 years old it is safest that they buckle up in the back.”

Even some teenagers who may be small for their age, he said, might need to travel on the back seat as an airbag might do more harm than good.

Use a child lock on the doors

“A child lock is good to have on the motor vehicle so that the door cannot be opened from the inside,” he recommended. Child locks come in especially handy for the door next to your car seat if you have a curious toddler, and for children who are old enough to open the doors on their own.

Keep windows up when possible

Hare recommends that as much as possible you should drive with the windows even halfway up to prevent children from sticking their fingers, hands, and even heads out the window. Always ensure, however, that the car is well ventilated.

Never leave a child alone in a car

Not only does the Road Traffic Act seek to protect children in motor vehicles, but the Child Care and Protection Act speaks to ensuring that children are always safe and never neglected, and this includes the time they spend in motor vehicles. It is never safe to leave a child alone in a car, whether it is switched on or off. A child's body temperature increases very quickly, and so does the temperature inside an immobile car. This puts them at an increased risk of heat stroke (hyperthermia), which can damage the brain and other body organs, and can even lead to death.


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