Seat Belts and Child Safety Seats

In a crash, most people die from brain or spinal trauma or ejection from the vehicle. A person who is not wearing a seat belt is twice as likely to die or suffer injury as a person wearing one. Babies and children are most vulnerable. They stand little chance of survival if they are not properly restrained in a child safety seat or seatbelt for older children.

Seat belts save lives

While seat belts do not prevent a crash from taking place, they do dramatically improve your chance of survival, more than halving your risk of death or serious injury. The simple act of buckling up is the most effective and simplest way of protecting yourself as a driver or a passenger.

Seat belts have saved the lives of hundreds of thousands of people around the world in the past 30 years in countries which have enacted and enforced laws on universal seat belt and child restraint use. In Oman, however, where seat belts are mandated only for the driver and front seat passenger and enforcement patchy at best, hundreds of people die and thousands are injured in survivable crashes because they were not wearing a seatbelt.

Seat Belts and Child Safety SeatsHow they protect you

In a crash or sudden stop, your seat belt protects you by:-

  • preventing you from being ejected from the vehicle to almost certain death outside;
  • reducing the risk or speed of a ‘secondary’ crash of your head and body with the hard interior of the vehicle or the bodies of other occupants;
  • slows your forward momentum gradually and distributing the crash forces evenly over the stronger parts of your body (pelvis and ribcage).

What happens if I don’t wear a seatbelt?

In a crash or sudden stop, if you are not restrained by seat belt, you will continue to travel forward at the speed the vehicle was travelling prior to the crash until you are stopped by a solid object such as the windscreen, dashboard or steering wheel. Depending on the force of the crash, you may be ejected through the windscreen or door landing on the road outside with tremendous force and possibly run over and or crushed by your own or another vehicle. Your chances of being killed are 25 times greater than if you were belted.

What happens if my rear-seated passengers don’t wear a seatbelt?

An unbelted passenger in the rear seat is a serious danger to a belted passenger in front of him. In a head-on collision, he will be thrown forward into the person seated in front with a force of 30-60 times his body weight. The odds of death in such cases are almost 3 times higher for the unbelted passenger and 2 times higher for the person seated in front. Any passenger, even a child, not wearing a seat belt can kill or seriously injure others in the car. Click on our animation and see what happens to an unbelted rear passenger in a crash at 30 km/h, 50 km/h and 60 km/h

Seat Belt Animation

Sharing a seat belt

Never allow more than one person, adult or child, to share a single seat belt. To do so risks either one or both being killed or seriously hurt. Small children who share a seat belt when riding on an adult’s lap are at particular risk. In a crash or sudden stop, the forward momentum of the adult’s body will crush the child between it and the seat belt.

Remember, seatbelts can save your life, but only if you use them! Hizaamak Amaanak, Buckle up for life, everyone, every trip

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Child fatalities in Oman

Child fatalities in OmanCar crashes are the No. 1 killer of children and young people worldwide. In Oman an estimated 20% of all child deaths in Oman occur in car crashes. Around 120 babies and children between 0 and 15 years of age die in this way on Oman’s roads every year. Ten times as many are injured, many disfigured or disabled for life. These are extraordinarily high numbers for a small population of around 3 million.

The risk of a child dying on Oman’s roads is around 42 times that of a child dying on the roads of the UK and even higher if compared to other European countries such as Holland and Sweden. Just compare Oman’s fatality figures for children between 0 and 15 years of age with those of the UK in 2011:-

  • Oman (116 fatalities)  population (3,000,000)
  • UK (60), population (65,000,000)

Causes

Riding unrestrained, as do the vast majority of children in Oman, is the single greatest risk factor for death and injury in a car crash or a sudden stop, even at low speeds. High exposure [link to this heading on Risk Factor page] to risk in Oman has not been mitigated by road safety education or legal reform mandating the use of child safety seats. This means that parents are unaware of the risks to which they expose their children by travelling unrestrained. They unwittingly gamble with their children’s lives by driving with them kneeling or standing on car seats, against the windscreen, lying across rear window ledges or hanging out of open windows.

CausesIn a crash, the law of physics dictates that any object including a child loose inside the vehicle will be propelled forward at the speed the vehicle was travelling before the collision. S/he will hit the windscreen or hard car interior with devastating force of 30 times his/her body weight suffering severe facial and head injuries resulting in death or permanent brain damage. In many cases the child is catapulted through the windscreen or car door onto the road outside to almost certain death.

The most dangerous place for a baby or child to travel is in the arms of his/her mother’s or other adult. In a crash at only 50 km/h an infant is likely to be vioently catapulted out of the mother’s arms hitting the dashboard or windscreen or, if seated in the back, hitting the seat in front with a force of 30 times his/her body weight. In many cases, the baby or child will be crushed by the mother’s own body as it too is propelled forward by the force of the crash, or between the exploding airbag and the mother’s body. In a terrible irony, the infant’s soft body may cushion the mother and protect her from injury at the expense of its own life.

Watch this film clip to see what happens to a baby carried in the arms of a mother.

Baby & MotherThe tragic fact is that this toll of violent and painful death and injury to babies and children is both predictable and preventable. While in Oman’s high risk road environment, a driver may not be able to avoid a crash, s/he can minimise:-

  • the probability of being involved in a crash by avoiding reckless, high-risk drivng behaviours such as speeding and using a mobile phone while driving;
  • injury to occupants by ensuring that  everyone is properly restrained by a seat belt or in a child safety seat appropriate to his height and weight in the back seat of the vehicle. 

In a crash, the body of a properly restrained child will come to a gradual stop along with the vehicle. Upto 70% of precious young lives could be saved by following the guidelines below.

 

BabyChild safety seat guidelines

Car crashes are a leading cause of preventable death to children. Worldwide, the majority of children who die as car passengers would have survived if they had been properly secured. Their parents did not think it could happen to them. You can reduce the risk of your child’s death by upto 70% by using the correct safety restraint when travelling in your car.

The best seat for a child is one that fits him or her and fits properly the car for which it is intended. Child safety seats are often described in terms of ‘Stages’ which correspond to certain weight and age ranges. Some safety seats are convertible can be used in more than one stage. Read the manufacturer’s instructions carefully to assess if a seat is suitable for your child and check that it fits your vehicle. Try before you buy!

Stage 1- New-born to 2 years in rear–facing seats

Stage 1- New-born to 2 years in rear–facing seatsInfants are at greater risk of injury in crashes because their heads are large in proportion to their bodies, about 25% of their body mass compared to 6% in an adult. Their neck bones are soft and the ligaments that help support the neck are stretchy. In a frontal crash, the tremendous forces on an infant’s neck in a forward-facing seat can stretch or even break the spinal cord whereas a rear-facing infant seat keeps the infant’s head, neck and spine aligned and the seat back absorbs most of the crash forces. In 2012, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) issued a new guideline recommending keeping children rear-facing until 2 years old, or until they reach the maximum height and weight for the seat. Research which prompted the new guideline shows that rear-facing is five times safer than facing forward.*

There are 2 types of rear-facing seat:-

  • Infant-only Child Safety Seats – depending on the brand  these can accommodate infants upto 15 kg; 
  • Rear-facing Convertible Child Safety Seats – these have higher rear-facing limits up to 18 kg and can be used rear-facing then turned forward which means the seat can be used for longer. Some models (3 in 1) can be used rear-facing, forward-facing or as a booster seat but are bigger in size so it is important to check that they fit in the vehicle while rear-facing.

Watch a film on choosing and installing a safety seat for your infant here

Remember: always install the safety seat in the back seat of your vehicle. 

* Based on research into accidents in the UK, Sweden and the United States involving children in child seats, European experts are now recommending that children up to 4 years of age (25kg), be secured rearward facing like in Scandinavia which has a much lower number of children injured or dead in car accidents compared with other countries. For more on the growing rear-facing movement visit ‘Rear facing – the Way Forward

Stage 2 – Toddler 2- 4 years in forward-facing safety seats with a five-point harness

Stage 2 – Toddler 2- 4 years in forward-facing safety seats with a five-point harnessOnce a toddler aged 2 years and older reaches the highest weight allowed by your rear-facing seat, she should ride in a forward-facing child safety seat with a built-in five-point harness for as long as possible in the back seat of the car until she reaches the upper weight or height limit of their particular seat (usually around age 4 and 18 kg). Many newer seats have higher weight limits. If your child outgrows his seat before reaching 4 years of age, consider using a seat with a harness approved for higher weights. The built-in harness will hold her in place in the event of a collision and distribute the impact forces evenly over her body. The sides of the seat cushion the delicate head and neck.

There are 2 types of forward-facing seat:-

  • Convertible Child Safety Seats –this can be used rear-facing then turned forward;
  • Combination seats – can be used forward-facing with a harness for children who weigh 18- 40 kilos (depending on the model) or without the harness as a booster for children who weigh 36- 55 kilos (depending on the model).

Watch a film on choosing and installing a safety seat for your toddler here

Remember: always install the safety seat in the back seat of your vehicle. 

Stage 3 – Child 4-8 years (36 kg or 145 cm tall) in booster safety seats

Stage 3 – Child 4-8 years (36 kg or 145 cm tall) in booster safety seatsOnce your child completely outgrows a Stage 2 safety seat you should switch her to a high-back belt-positioning booster seat placed in the back of the vehicle until your child can correctly fit in the adult lap and shoulder seat belts, typically when the child is around 145 cm in height and 8 to 12 years old.

The booster seat is designed to position the lap/shoulder belt of your car correctly over your child’s shoulders and upper thighs instead of over the stomach or against the neck and prevent injuries in a crash. A high-back seat also provides support for the upper body, head and neck. Research has shown that the use of belt-positioning booster seats lowers the risk of injury to children by nearly 60 percent compared to the use of seat belts for this age group.

Some Booster seats are designed to be converted into a booster cushion by detaching the back rest. A booster cushion raises your child’s body so that the lap/shoulder belt is properly positioned over your child’s shoulders and upper thighs instead of over the stomach or against the neck to prevent injuries in a crash. You can use these in vehicles only with high seat backs or head rests until your child is tall enough to graduate safely to an adult seatbelt but beware, in a collision, they will not offer as much protection for the head and neck as a high-back booster.

Watch a film on choosing and installing a safety seat for your child here

Remember: always install the safety seat in the back seat of your vehicle.

Stage 4 – Child 8-12 years (145 cm tall) in adult seatbelt

Stage 4 – Child 8-12 years (145 cm tall) in adult seatbeltProtecting the lives of older children is as important as protecting the lives of little ones. Many children between the ages of 3 and 8 are moved too early from a child safety seat to an adult seatbelt. Seatbelts are designed for adults, not for children under 145cm. In a crash, a child seated in a seatbelt may flip over the top of the lap belt or submarine under it suffering grave injuries or death. Seat belts are made for adults. Your child should stay in a booster seat until adult lap-and-shoulder seat belts fit correctly (usually when the child reaches about 145 cm in height and is between 8 and 12 years of age). Seat belts fit properly when the lap belt lays across the upper thighs (not the stomach) and the shoulder belt fits across the chest (not the neck).

Remember: For the best possible protection keep children belted in the back seat.

Beware- Airbags can be fatal to children

Child safety seats should never be placed in the front seat of a car next to an airbag unless the airbag has been deactivated. Airbags detonate at a speed of 300 km/hr in about 40 milliseconds. The force can cause death or serious injury to a child secured in the front seat whether in a car seat or not.

Watch this film for guidance on keeping children safe from airbags

Why would you risk your world?

Expectant Mothers

Your body is your unborn child’s first and last protection against fatal injury in a crash. Unborn babies die every year because of crash injuries to pregnant mothers who did not wear seatbelts. If you travel without a seatbelt, when your car stops suddenly your body will keep moving forward until it hits something; the seat in front, dashboard, windscreen or even the road outside. Your seatbelt is designed to stretch with you, distribute the crash forces evenly over your body and slow you down until your body and baby come to rest.

The proper way to wear a seatbelt during pregnancy is to:-

  • Place the diagonal strap over the centre of the chest with the strap resting over the shoulder, not the neck. 
  • Place the lap belt flat on the thighs, fitting comfortably beneath the baby, and over the pelvis not across the abdomen 
  • Wear the belt as tight as possible. 
  • Do not wear ‘lap-only’ belts as opposed to shoulder and lap belts as they have been shown to cause serious injury to unborn children.

Remember seatbelts are not designed for comfort, they are designed for safety. Wear one every ride and sit in the back of the vehicle if you can. When driving, push the seat well back from the steering wheel and reduce your driving in the last 3 months of pregnancy.

Use a child safety seat appropriate to your child’s weight on every ride starting with the first ride home from the hospital. Experts advise parents to be to buy the seat well in advance of the birth to be sure it fits the car. In some countries, hospitals require cars to have a properly installed infant car seat before mothers are allowed home with their babies. Doesn’t your baby deserve as much thought and care?

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