Strap in and belt up before you zoom off. New road rules from the Singapore Police Force state that from January 2012, every person under 135cm in height must be properly secured in a car. This means that your child must be seated in an appropriate child restraint whenever he or she is in the car.
The new regulation provides a basic framework on child safety as most factory-fitted seat belts and air bags are designed for adults, not children. Hence, children using adult seat belts can be at higher risk for internal injury, particularly if the belt does not fit properly across the pelvis.
If you have not bought a car seat for your child yet, do so as soon as possible. Your child’s safety lies in your hands. For product manager Cindy, mum to a three-year-old and a one-year-old, having her children in car seats offers peace of mind. As an added advantage, “it also allows them to look out of the window and it gives them the added height”.
Safety experts at Volvo Cars Corporation and Mothercare tell us what to look out for when buying a car seat for a child.
• Buy a reputable one
This is for better assurance in terms of quality and safety. For instance, Volvo has worked with Britax to specially design and customise robust child seats for its cars. Michelle Tan, 38, a consultancy director and mum to a three-year-old boy, puts her son in a Britax Royale. “It can be used from newborn onwards and still has lots of room! There are different tilt angles, it can be positioned both front and rear-facing, it’s spacious, and well-cushioned. It’s supposed to be very safe and has been well-tested. It’s also very easy to use and install. Every piece can be removed to wash so it’s easy to maintain.”
• Get the right seat for your child’s weight and height
A child who is either above or below the specified weight range for the car seat may prevent the seat from effectively protecting him or her in the event of an accident. It is critical that your child is in the right seat for his or her weight and height. For children below the age of four, rearward facing seats are recommended for maximum safety. When purchasing booster seats, ensure that the seat is able to guide the lap belt over the child’s lap instead of his or her abdomen.
• Make sure the car seat fits your car
Up to 80 per cent of car seats are fitted incorrectly! Not all car seats fit all cars — and you don’t want to find out you’ve bought the wrong one when you are in the hospital car and about to bring your bundle of joy home. If you are buying a car seat from Mothercare, ask for a free fitting demonstration to ensure that the seat you buy fits your child and your car. Brands like Maxi Cosi and Britax have online tools to help you determine which seats will fit your car.
• Make sure you know how to install the car seat
Many car seats can be installed using a car’s existing seat belt. This is safe enough if the child seat is designed to be secured with the car manufacturer’s fitted safety belts. It is highly unlikely that a vehicle’s seat belt will snap unless an accident occurs at exceptionally high speeds, in which case the force of the impact would disintegrate the vehicle itself. To ensure maximum safety, always read the instruction manual for accurate child seat installation.
• Understand what you are buying
– Side-impact protection (SI, SIPS, SPS) means there are deeper side wings to ensure optimum protection should in a side-on collision.
– The seat-belt tensioning device helps you to tighten the seatbelt effectively.
– Isofix™ is the new standard for car seat installation. This makes car seat installation easy. Cindy, who puts her children in Maxi Cosi car seats, gives the seats a four our of five rating for ease of installation with the Isofix™.
• Use an age and height appropriate seat
The five-point harness should be used until your child is 18kg (at approximately four years of age). It may be tempting and more convenient to move your child to a seat without a harness but a five-point harness provides much better fit and protection that an adult seatbelt. Once your child has outgrown the height of the seat’s head and back support, change to a bigger child or booster seat. For the latter, opt for highback booster (HBB). Your child will fit a HBB much better than a vehicle’s seat and will therefore be more effectively restrained and protected.
• Invest in a new seat
It is not recommended to purchase a second-hand seat, as it might be difficult to ascertain the seat’s usage history and condition. The seat may have been damaged in a serious accident, affecting its structural integrity and ability to provide maximum protection. Also, most seats come with expiry dates, which could be nearing when the second-hand seat is obtained. Analyst Celine Low, 34, bought a second-hand Britax at the Salvation Army for $30. Her two sons, aged three and one and a half, have used it. But she has since bought a new booster seat — one with an extra strap to create a three-point harness with the seat belt — for her older child.
Shopping for a car seat? Find out what to look out for here.