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Guide to Child Car Seats and Sizes

Tips - 26 June 2020

No matter how short your drive is, we should never feel inconvenienced for the sake of safety, because it should always be your top priority. When it comes to passengers, it’s important that any child under the age of three is securely fastened into an appropriate child car seat whenever you’re taking off on a journey.

Using the correct child car seat sizes for the age and weight of the child is crucial. Harnessing an infant in a seat that is too big is dangerous, as is trying to fit a child into a seat that they have outgrown. (Remember to have children under the age of thirteen riding in the back seat.)

The right child car seat size for the right age

It’s best to use a rear-facing car seat for as long as possible – until they are at least 15 months old. Wheel Well, advocate for Children’s Road Safety in South Africa, in their Golden Rules for Car Seats says that a child outgrows their car seat when they have reached the upper weight, height or age limit of the seat. Once your child’s head is higher than the seat shell, you should be looking at getting the next size. 

The best car seat is the one that fits your child properly, and is easy to use correctly and safely at all times. See a comprehensive breakdown of all the many types of car seat categories for children

Newborn, infant, toddler, and booster car seats for the different stages of your child.

Infant seats

The back and the flatter angle of infant car seats are designed to protect a baby’s spine and neck during a collision. The side impact protection prevents injury to the baby’s head and neck.

Guide to using an infant car seat:

  • These seats can be taken out of the vehicle to carry your child in and can double up as a rocker or feeding chair.
  • Infant car seats are not designed for sleeping for long periods, and you should never leave your child unattended in an infant seat, especially newborns.
  • Do not place your baby in this seat wrapped in a blanket, rather place a blanket over the whole seat.

Toddler seats

Toddlers are able to sit up by now and these seats are designed for children that are between  9 – 18kg or 105cm tall, or at least 4 years of age. The seats can be reclined to a comfortable position when your child is sleeping. Resist the temptation to move your child up to a booster seat too early.

Guide to using a toddler car seat

  • Before purchasing, fit extended rear-facing toddler seats in your car at their highest extension as they take up a lot of space.
  • Rear-facing is best if your vehicle has space and your safety belt is long enough.
  • Forward-facing after 15 months is acceptable.
  • The harness must fit snugly – you should not be able to pinch the harness between your fingers.
  • The harness must be adjusted to shoulder level or slightly above.
  • Convertible seats can rear or forward face.

Booster seats

Designed for children from 18kg, 4 years old, or an absolute minimum of 15kg if you have a tall skinny child. The upper weight limit for a booster seat is 36kg. You can use the booster seat beyond that weight as the seat belt is designed to handle much more than that in adults.

Booster seats raise your child and ensures their shoulder is better aligned to the safety belt.  The back of a good booster seat adjusts up with the growth of your child. Once they have outgrown the highest adjustment of the height adjustable booster seat, your child should sit on a ‘bum’ booster until they are 1.5m tall.

Guide to using a booster seat:

  • The shoulder belt must pass over the middle of their shoulder, away from the neck, and across the chest.
  • The lap belt must go over the lap and hips – never across the tummy.
  • Never use a booster seat with only a lap belt.
  • Red markings indicate where the seat belt goes.
  • Never allow your child to put the shoulder belt behind their backs or under their arm.
  • Good side impact protection is a must.

Proper use of child car seats

You should always follow the installation instructions in the car seat manual and never leave your child unattended in a car seat. Wheel Well offers the following rules:

  • Never place a child in a position where airbags can be deployed such as in the front passenger seat.
  • Once installed, the seat must be fastened securely and should not move more than 2.5cm in any direction.
  • Place the child car seat facing towards the rear for as long as possible, until around the time they reach 13kg.
  • The shoulder belt should lie snugly across the shoulder and chest, and not the neck or face.
  • Make sure the shoulder straps of the harness are not twisted.
  • The shoulder straps of the harness must go over and below your child’s shoulder for seats that are rear-facing.
  • The shoulder straps of the harness can sit at shoulder height or slightly above the shoulder for seats that are forward-facing.
  • Use the correct harness slots: rear-facing slots at or below your child’s shoulders; front-facing slots are at or above the shoulders.
  • The harness must fit snugly but not too tightly. There should be no slack when you pinch the strap at the child’s shoulders. To test, slide your hand in between your child’s tummy and the buckle.
  • The lap belt should lie snugly across the upper thighs, and not the stomach.

Child seat laws in South Africa

  • Regulation according to the National Road Traffic Act states that all children under the age of three years will have to be strapped into a car seat when travelling in a car.
  • Child car seats have to comply with the South African National Regulator for Compulsory Specifications (NRCS)
  • Car seats have to be correctly certified and must be appropriate.

As parents, we are responsible for our children’s safety in every situation – driving is no different, especially with the amount of reckless and distracted driving that occurs on our roads every day. Wheel Well is committed to road safety for children. By raising awareness of using child car seats and enabling lower-income families to obtain a seat through their child car seat exchange initiative.

Disclaimer: This information is for educational, or entertainment purposes only. It must not be construed as advice, legal, financial, or otherwise. We do not make any warranties about the completeness, reliability, and accuracy of this information. The views expressed in this article are not necessarily the views of Supa Quick.

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