Here are some essential rules to follow to keep your child safe in the car.
The child car seat plays an important role in keeping a child safe and secure during car rides. Remember that a child’s body is smaller and more fragile, so when collisions occur, infants and children may be at higher risk of sustaining severe injuries or even death. This is why it is important to ensure that your child car seats are properly installed and used for their intended purpose.
In Singapore, anyone under 1.35m in height — regardless of age — must be secured in child restraints, booster seats, or adjustable seat belts when travelling in a vehicle. This also applies to ride hailing transport options such as Grab, which are considered private hire vehicles. Only taxis are exempted from this requirement, although passengers shorter than 1.35m must be seated in the rear.
To help you keep your child safe in the car, we have compiled a list of do’s and don’ts when it comes to car child seats.
Do select the right seat for your car
Choose a seat that fits each growth phase of your child. Check by making sure the harness rests tight but comfortably on the body with the protectors correctly positioned and without any twists. Ensure that the top straps are at the same level or below the shoulders. The waist strap should be placed as low as possible on your child’s lap.
Do install it correctly
A child car seat is held in place by the adult seat belt. Firstly, hold it in place with the seat belt by threading this through openings at the bottom or back of the child car seat. Ensure the seat belt is not twisted or bunched up. To secure, push down on the car seat and pull on the belt so it locks. Secondly, anchor the child seat either with its attached tether onto a metal anchor on the back of the vehicle’s seat or with the latch system, depending on your car. Once installed, give the child seat a good shake at the base where the seat belt fits — a properly installed seat will not move more than an inch side-to-side or front-to-back.
Do get it checked by a trained car seat installation technician
Incorrect installations are more common than you think. Find a trained car seat installation technician to install and check your child car seats, if required.
Some common mistakes to avoid are:
- seat installed too loose — it should not be able to move more than one inch in any direction
- wrong height of slot for shoulder straps — at or below baby’s shoulders for rear-facing seats; at or above your child’s shoulders for forward-facing seats
- harness too loose — you should not be able to pinch any extra material
- wrong slot used for convertible (can be used either forward or backward facing) seats — ensure the right slots are used for the direction you wish your child to face
Do keep your baby in rear-facing seats
A child safety seat should ideally be rear-facing until your child is two years of age to ensure full support for the head, neck and spine. A rear-facing seat may be used safely with its top resting against the back of the front seat. Ensure the base of the seat rests flatly on the vehicle seat with at least 85% of the base supported. Take note of seat belt length and vehicle roof height to properly secure the safety seat.
Don’t use expired child seats
Car seats are made of plastic, which gets brittle with age. You need the seat to be strong enough to withstand a crash. Depending on the maker, they tend to last for six to eight years. Be cautious also about using borrowed or hand-me-down items. This is because you can never be sure if it had been in a crash previously and thus has compromised structural integrity.
Don’t place car child seats in the front seat of the car
The front seat is an extremely dangerous spot for a child as he or she may be flung towards the windscreen in the event of an accident. If air bags are activated, it could be potentially fatal for a small child due to the force of impact. Instead, the seat should be secured in the middle back seat for the safest position, followed by the two side rear seats. If you have to place the seat on the front passenger seat, deactivate the air bags.
Don’t leave your child in the child car seat outside the car
You may think it’s safe to carry your sleeping child in the car seat. However, a study published in Pediatrics in May 2019 revealed a high incidence of infant deaths that occurred when the car child seat was used as a substitute for a crib or bassinet.
The study’s lead author, Dr Jeffrey Colvin, says it’s not clear why a car seat is not the best place when the child is out of the car. A crib or bassinet may be safer because it’s flat rather than angled like a car seat, and there aren’t any straps or side padding that could potentially serve as a strangulation or suffocation risk.