Keeping safe in the car
safety; seat belts; booster seats; accident; airbags ;
It doesn't matter if your family car is old or new, research about car accidents proves that the front passenger seat is the most dangerous.
Even if your car is new and has air bags for the driver and the front seat passenger there are still dangers for kids. Air bags protect the chest of an adult but can be at face height for a child.
So where's the safest place for kids to sit? --- in the back seat. This is why the Australian law says that young kids must sit in the back of a car. (Have a look at What the Law says later in this topic.)
Wearing your seat belt
It is the Law in Australia that everyone should wear a seat belt in any car built after July 1st 1976.
Research shows that wearing a seat belt that is the right size for you is the best way to avoid serious injury.
Seat belts should be made to fit the person using them. Kids can be hurt in an adult seat belt because they are small and the belt could come up round their neck or face.
Part of a baby capsule is a strong plastic shell which is fastened to the car with the seat belt around the base and another strap bolted behind the back seat so that the capsule cannot move about.
Into this fits another section where the baby is placed. This can be taken out while the baby is not travelling in the car and put carefully back when needed.
Baby capsules must only be used in the back of the car. This is even more important if there are airbags in the front of the car as these very quickly fill up with air in an accident and can cause the baby to be hurt.
Booster seats and safety seats
Once a baby is too big for the capsule, then the next step is to have a safety seat. This also has a strap that is attached behind the back seat of the car and the seatbelt is fastened around the base of it. There is a safety harness which holds the child in the seat.
As soon as the child is too big for this safety seat then he or she can graduate to a booster seat.
Booster seats make sure that the child is at the right height when sitting down for the ordinary 'adult' seatbelt to be safely used.
What the Law says
In South Australia the law about child safety restraints says:
- Children up to six months old must use an approved rearward-facing infant restraint and must not travel in the front seat of a vehicle that has two or more rows of seats.
- Any child below the age of 7 must be in a capsule, safety seat or booster seat.
- The law also says that a child under 7 must not be allowed to sit in the front seat unless all the other seats in the back of the car have a kid under 7 sitting in them already.
- Also - if a child is over seven years and still fits in a booster seat, they should continue using it until they are tall enough for the adult seatbelt to fit properly. (And anyway you can see through the window a lot better from a booster seat can't you?) It is still safest for older children to sit in the back of the car.
All child restraints have a label saying the maximum weight a child should be to use it safely.
The law also says that no part of a passenger is allowed to be outside of a car when it is moving. You are not allowed to have your arm sticking out through the window.
What you can do
Do you know how upsetting it is to a driver if kids are fighting in the car while the driver is trying to drive safely? When drivers are distracted by fighting or whinging kids they are much more likely to drive unsafely and to have an accident. Be considerate to your driver.
Does your younger sibling (brother or sister) think it's cool to get out of his or her seatbelt?
You can help keep yourself and your siblings safe by:
- setting a good example by always putting on your seat belt when you get in the car.
- helping your sibling fasten the seatbelt or harness.
- praising him or her for doing the right thing and staying in the seat belt.
- letting the driver know if someone takes off the seatbelt when the car is moving so that the driver can stop until the belt is fastened again.
- never lying down on the back seat while the car is moving.
- sitting in the back seat yourself so that you can keep an eye on what is happening. Anyway, even if you are big enough to sit in the front seat you are still safer in the back.
- never holding a baby on your lap while the car is moving. Even adults are not strong enough to hold onto a baby if an accident happens.
- If your family pet comes with you in the car sometimes it is safest for the pet to be fastened in a pet safety harness or behind a cargo barrier in the back of a wagon or SUV. Lots of pets are killed or injured in cars in Australia every year, and many people are injured if a pet bangs into them in an accident.
- Protect your pet from the heat and make sure that your pet has enough water to drink too.
- Dogs love to lean out of the window when the car is moving, but this is not safe! Don't let your dog do this.
- Don't leave your pet in a car when the car is parked, as cars can rapidly become too hot and the pet can suffer from heat stress, just like you.
Recent research has shown that adult seatbelts are too big for kids to use safely until the kid is 148cm tall, or 74cm sitting down, and weighs 37kg or more. Help mum or dad or whoever cares for you to check out your weight and height and that of your siblings so that you can all travel safely in the car.
And please keep your feet off the driver's seat, don't make sudden loud noises or ask "Are we there yet?" etc.
If you are under 8 years of age you are not allowed to be a passenger on a motor bike. That's the law.
Look at this site to learn about dialling 000. Remember that you only do this in an emergency.
What kids say
- "Put your seat belt on. There's only one of you." Shai
- "Don't put a small child in the front seat because the air bags can hurt it." Ebony
- "Try not to be noisy or kick the seat when you're in the car. You could cause a crash if the driver is watching you instead of the road." Adam
- "If you don't wear a seatbelt you will be shaked, rattled and might be rolled!" Jack
- "My mum says, "No seat belt, no go!" Kate
- "If you are going on a road trip take a bottle of water with you."
We've provided this information to help you to understand important things about staying healthy and happy. However, if you feel sick or unhappy, it is important to tell your mum or dad, a teacher or another grown-up.