Crash tests have shown that little ones who are unrestrained or worn in a carrier in a car have “exceptionally high” risk of fatal injuries.
The good news: Child safety seats can reduce fatal injury by 71 percent for infants and 54 percent for toddlers aged 1 to 4, according to the US National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.
What’s more? “Singaporean law says that all kids under 1.35 metres tall have to use an approved restraint when traveling in vehicles,” explains Elise Mawson, Taxi Baby Founder and Principal Child Passenger Safety Technician. While taxis are exempted from the rule, private-hire cars are not.
So, here’s the next logical question: What exactly should you be looking for when purchasing a car seat for children of different ages?
Newborns and infants are always safer travelling rear-facing (for a long as possible or until they reach the age of 4).
Five times safer, in fact. In case of an accident, everything in the car moves forward and if your kids are rear-facing, their back and head will push into the shell of the seat evenly, resulting in minimal pressure and risk of injury.
“Children’s skeletons are quite different from adults, so what may result in whiplash for adults, may result in a broken neck for kids,” Elise says.
Elise recommends a long lasting infant-to-toddler seat for infants from birth to 4 years of age.
Her top choice? The Cosco Scenera NEXT ($239, pictured), which suits infants from birth to approximately age 4 and is airline-approved. For an infant-only seat, try the Cybex Aton 2, which has a handle and canopy. Buy it on Amazon here ($700).
Riding in taxis or private-hires? Most car seat belts in Singapore do not have Automatic Locking Retractor (ALR) or child-restraint modes where the user can tighten the seat belt to hold the car seat in the right position. Most seat belts are in Emergency Locking Retractor (ELR) mode, which locks only in an accident.
To know which seat belts are in taxis or private-hire cars, gently pull the belt out of the retractor, feed 10 centimetres of the belt back and then gently pull on the belt again. If the belt moves freely, it is in ELR mode and may require a locking clip. If not, it is in ALR mode.
There are two ways to attach a child restraint to a car: ISOFIX anchors or with regular seat belts. ISOFIX is a universal standard for the attachment points for child seats and look like U-shaped anchors.
Some claim that ISOFIX seats are safer, but Elise clarifies, this is only because “it is often easier to attach a car seat the correct way via the ISOFIX anchors,” making them statistically safer.
All Mercedes LimoCabs (book via the Comfort DelGro app), the SMRT Toyota Prius taxis (book a “Green taxi” via the SMRT app) and the newer Hyundai i40 from Comfort and City Cab are ISOFIX-enabled. However, not all taxis in Singapore have these anchors, so pick a seat that works with both mounts.
When riding in cabs or private-hire cars, carry a portable car seat that can be combined with a stroller and used as a car seat, too.
For a stroller that’s compatible with your car seat – check out the Buggy Nano ($499) or the Snap-N-Go strollers (from $129), which have universal car seat adaptors. Got your own car? Try the Britax Two Way Elite ($399), which Elise dubs the “safest child seat in world!” Shop the range here.
Kids who are at least 4, and have outgrown their existing child seats, are ready to progress to a booster. This will position the adult seat belt over the strongest and safest parts of a child’s body.
According to Elise, “If your child is a wriggler and has a tendency to climb out of his or her seat belt,” he or she is probably not yet ready to move into a booster.
Kids should use a child seat of some sort until they’re about 10 to 12, after which, they can use regular car seat belts instead.
If you have your own car and you’re after a high backed booster, she suggests looking for a lightweight or ISOFIX model that is safer for your child in case of an accident. Try the mifold Grab-and-Go booster seats (from $99, pictured), the “best portable solution for kids over 4,” says Elise.
Need a more portable option, say, for taxi rides? The RideSafer Delight travel vest (from $225, pictured) is an easy-to-tote wearable contraption that uses seat belt guides to lower the adult seat belt, securing it properly over your child’s body.
By Andre Theng, The Finder Kids (Volume 19), June 2017
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