School runs and grocery shopping are regular tasks while family outings may come around once in a while. Either way, it’s important to consider the safety of children in the car.
To help keep your family safe on the road, we’ve put together a useful guide about child safety in the car. Here, we tackle the all-important use of car seats, seat belts, and other useful safety tips.
Did you know that it’s illegal to hold a baby or child on your lap when travelling in the car?
Car seats are crucial for keeping babies or toddlers safe while booster seats are necessary for children from 4 until they’re 12 years old or 135cm tall (whichever comes first).
Forward-facing car seats can be used when a child reaches 15 months. Up until then, however, it’s recommended to use a rear-facing seat to protect your child’s head and neck in the event of a collision.
According to NI Direct, driving without a child seat or proper restraint could land you with a £60 fine and three penalty points.
A popular question parents and drivers ask, especially around wintertime, is
“Can babies wear coats in car seats in the UK and Northern Ireland?
It may be cold outside and the last thing you want to be doing is fiddling with your child’s coat before securing them in the car. However, you should always remove winter coats before strapping them in. A thick coat would create too big a gap between the child’s body and restraint, thus not securing them tightly.
The Dos and Don’ts of Car Seat Safety
- Keep infants under 15 months rear-facing.
- Install the car or booster seat tightly and securely.
- Adjust the harness or restraint to ensure it’s secure.
- Remove thick coats before fastening your child into the seat.
- Look out for cars that have ISOFIX installed when purchasing a new car.
- Check the restraint regularly to ensure it hasn't loosened over time.
- Put young infants under 15 months forward-facing.
- Carry children without a seat belt or restraint, not even for a short distance.
- Put a rear-facing car seat into the front seat if the car has an active airbag.
- Buy a second-hand child car seat unless you know its history. Manufacturers often recommend car seats be less than five years due to wear of important parts.
- Modify car seats or restraints.
- Use an ordinary cushion as a replacement for a booster seat.
In addition to holding children or babies on your lap, it’s also illegal to travel in a car without wearing a seat belt in Northern Ireland. If you’re carrying a child under 14 without the proper restraints, you can be liable for a £500 fine and three penalty points.
Seat belts are designed only for one person so you should never strap a belt around you and your child. Ensure your child is strapped securely to their own restraint, using a car seat or booster seat if needs be. Fastening two people, including two children, together could result in injury to both if there’s a crash.
The Dos and Don’ts of Seat Belt Safety
- Use a booster seat to ensure the car seat belt fits around the child securely and safely.
- Ensure the lap belt is fitted below the child’s stomach and across the hips.
- Secure the shoulder belt so that it's away from the child’s neck. It should be worn over the collarbone and across the chest.
- Use a seat belt that’s broken or doesn’t restrain the child if you brake suddenly.
- Carry your child while driving without proper use of a seat belt.
- Position the seat belt in a way that would injure your child if you were to brake or stop suddenly. For example, place it securely under the stomach and away from the neck.
Never Leave Your Child Unattended
Has your child ever fallen asleep on the car journey home? You may have been tempted to crack the window open and let them rest a little while longer. Perhaps you’ve quickly ran into a store to grab a carton of milk or collect your laundry with your child in the back seat.
It’s easier said than done but infants or young children should never be left in a car unattended.
Heat stroke is the most common and most severe danger when leaving your child unattended. It can damage the brain and other organs, which can often lead to death. A child’s body heats up faster than an adult’s body, but they haven’t yet developed the ability to cool down well. The same is true for leaving animals unattended.
Other In-Car Safety Tips
- Be prepared for any kind of emergency. It’s useful to keep a car emergency kit
in the front pocket or boot in case of a breakdown or accident.
- Don’t drive too fast or recklessly when you’ve got a child in the car. Be sure to follow the speed limit and watch out for any dangers on the road.
- Use safety locks on doors to prevent your child from opening them while on the move. It’s also a good idea to lock the power windows as kids are often tempted to play with them, leading to injury.
- Use a car seat mirror to keep a regular eye on your child while driving.
So there you have it, our guide for ensuring child safety in the car. If you’d like more advice on driving or want to enquire about car insurance quote don’t hesitate to contact us today!