Sunday 14 October 2012

Car Seats for Seven Year Olds

From the newspapers:
Under proposed new road rules children up to the age of seven will have to sit in car seats. The new limit, up from the age of five, will align New Zealand's requirements with Australia. Associate Transport Minister Simon Bridges says the change is a sensible move as international and local research shows school age children are at considerable risk if they use adult seat belts. He says the new limit will require changes to the Land Transport (Road User) Rules, and there will be public consultation to address any practical issues.
Mr Bridges says the changes need to be flexible enough so they don't create extra difficulties for taxi drivers or large families. Safekids and the Motor Trade Association say they would like the Government to go further, and keep children in car seats until at least the age of 10.

From Megan:

It’s a fact that children don’t fit in adult seat belts, they’re the wrong size and their anatomy is different from adults – for example, their ribs and pelvis don’t cover as much of their abdomens, and their ribs are bendy so don’t protect their heart and lungs.
It’s also a fact that most of us ignore this inconvenient fact a lot of the time. We’re good in the current compulsory period, most babies are nicely trussed up for car trips, and toddlers generally. At school age, most children are belted in – but with adult seatbelts. The Ministry of Transport Road Safety Surveys show that we have a high rate of restraining our children with seatbelts, just haven’t got the message yet about appropriate restraints.
Maybe making carseats compulsory is the only way to punch the information into us.
There is plenty of information around about the dangers of incorrectly fitted safety belts, see my previous blog (Private Cars for EOTC Transport) of February, 2011. Seriously, go and read it now.
Here are some interesting facts:
Children’s injuries (info from ACC)
·         Motor vehicles are the number one killer of children, accounting for 1 in 5 child fatalities.
·         Properly used child restraints and safety belts reduce the risk of death in a vehicle crash by 71% and serious injury by 67%.
The World Health Organisation states that in the age group 4 – 7, booster seats are estimated to reduce the chances of sustaining clinically significant injuries during a crash by 59%, as compared to using ordinary vehicle seatbelts.
So what are the issues that are stirring people up?
1)      It shouldn’t be age, it should be height and weight.  Well, it’s a good point but far simpler to say an age. If carseats are compulsory and kids get used to being in them, maybe the smaller ones won’t feel so bad about staying in them a bit longer… Seven is probably only an interim step anyway, many people would like to see the age go up to 12. The fact is, children simply don’t fit in adult seatbelts without some kind of booster seat and generally don’t reach an adult enough height and weight until 12 ish.
2)      You can’t fit more than two carseats in a normal car! Not easily it’s true, and there are many families with more than two children seven or younger. And what a pain for grandparents, aunties, schoolfriends, etc, who won’t be able to make spontaneous transport offers without car seat considerations. What will happen to school trips?
3)      It’s expensive. Yep, that’s true too although maybe there’ll be some hiring schemes such as Plunket runs for infant carseats.
4)      It’s mollycoddling. No, not really. It’s one thing for children to be active, to take risks climbing trees and jumping off the woodpile. Those activities are done voluntarily (mostly, unless you have older brothers…) and are important in learning about their physical abilities and the world – gravity, first aid, and all that. It’s part of childhood to take risks and learn from the painful consequences. Kids can learn to cope with falling off a bike and scraping a knee, they can learn to bravely bear the pain of a thumb caught in the car door, or stoically suck on a Sparkler burnt digit, but…being inadequately restrained in a car driven by someone else is different. You can’t expect children to “harden up” about whiplash, abdominal injuries, etc.
5)      It’s the nanny state yet again. Let us decide how to bring up our kids. Hmmm, tricky. There will always be people who educate themselves about issues, and others who blatantly disregard safety guidelines. Whose responsibility is it to keep our children safe? Where does it stop? Is insisting on child carseats any worse than insisting on swimming pool fences, childproof lids on medicines, bike helmets?

World Health Organisation article about Youth and Road Safety