Parents are being urged to ensure their children are properly strapped in during holiday road trips, particularly when they fall asleep.
About 30 children are killed in vehicle accidents every year on Australian roads, and according to Neuroscience Research Australia (NeuRA). The Christmas/New Year period is a particularly dangerous time, says NeuRA, due to restless kids and cars packed with holiday gear that can dislodge seat belts and child safety seat fasteners.
A 2010 study found half of all restraints had errors in how they were used. Some had up to seven errors, ranging from failing to buckle the child in to slackness in the belts and sashes.
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Most often parents weren’t aware they had made a mistake.
NeuRA associate professor Julie Brown said while most children now use the proper restraint for their age, the number of errors in how child restraints are fitted or installed hasn’t improved.
“In our studies we see a number of children seriously injured in a crash because they are ‘out of position’ and the seat belt or restraint is no longer providing good protection.”
Brown recommends parents ensure children are securely strapped in at the start of the journey, no matter how long or short the trip, and to continue monitoring their seating position during the journey.
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She recommends keeping an eye on how your children are interacting with their restraint during long journeys, and to ensure they keep their arms within the harness of child safety seats.
For children in a seatbelt, it is critical not to lie horizontally across the car with a pillow, but rather to keep upright so the seatbelt is positioned over the mid-shoulder to provide the best level of crash protection.
For more information about fitting child safety seats, read Installing child car safety seats, 10 things you should know.