Hi Paul, I have just learnt how to drive and I need some advice. I have a baby and three-year-old child. How can I keep these children safe while driving? Regina Namukasa
Hello Namukasa, child injuries or fatalities can be caused by negligence of motorists or disregard of the Highway Code and best practice for child passenger safety.
As a parent, the rule of thumb should always be to ensure that children are safe before you start the car.
Most modern cars today are designed with child protection restraints and systems which we should learn to use by reading the user manuals or asking someone knowledgeable to train you.
There are best practices that all motorists should follow when driving with children in or outside the car to avoid accidents or injury.
Most modern post 1995 cars are designed with restraints such as seat belts and air bags. Restraint systems are designed to prevent ejection of car occupants or limit contact with internal car structures during collision or rollover.
Correct use of the restraints is crucial to allow them perform their role of protecting the car occupants, especially children.
Infants should have their safety seats harnessed away from airbags at the middle or back row.
Airbags can cause severe bodily harm or death to infants or children who are not securely harnessed behind seat belts.
When a child or adult who is not wearing their seatbelt or seating near the front passenger airbag makes contact with a deploying airbag the force of the explosion can cause severe or fatal injuries instead of protecting them.
Pre-teens should always seat at the back. Children below four feet should have booster seats or their lap belts adjusted carefully to avoid serious lumbar spine or abdominal injuries from jacknifing and whiplash. Teens and adults should wear the seat belts over their shoulders (not under the armpit) to apportion the weight distribution against the belt during sudden deceleration to avoid jackknifing, compressing abdominal organs and hitting frontal car structures. Add on restraints like child protective seats and booster seats should be chosen with due consideration of the weight, size and height of a child.
These special children’s seats should be designed to evenly distribute crash forces in the unlikely event of an accident. This will protect the child’s posterior torso, neck, head and pelvis from injury. Look out for child seat anchors provided in newer cars and use them to secure the child seat.
Most cars today have special child lock mechanisms on car doors and windows. These help to prevent accidental opening of doors and windows while the car is in motion. As a parent adhere to best practice or driving norms. Children should not be transported at the back of pickup or cargo trucks.
There is a high risk of ejection of the children during sudden deceleration, swerving or turning.
I see some motorists and shuttles in Kampala driving with children standing through open hatches or sun roofs. This is very dangerous and borders on criminal negligence. In the event that you suddenly braked hard or decelerated that small child can be flung through the roof or tossed back against the roof edges ending up with severe or fatal spinal, neck and head injuries.
Never leave children unattended in a car, open or locked. They can pass out from suffocation or disengage the car emergency parking brake leading to an accident.
Ensure the safety of children before you start a car or back out of the drive. You should make sure there are no toddlers or small children whose whereabouts are not accounted for.
Motorists have run over their children while backing out of the drive. There rear bumper fitted parking sensors that you can buy and fit to your car.
These use sonar to alert you by a beep if you have an obstacle or child within proximity of the bumper.
Always double check. Do not start the car or leave the engine running if children are boarding or disembarking.