Ignition TV used our long term Ford Kuga to assess the fitment of child seats. Picture: MARK SMYTH
Ignition TV used our long term Ford Kuga to assess the fitment of child seats. Picture: MARK SMYTH

It never ceases to amaze me how many people I see driving in fancy cars with their seatbelt on while the kids are unstrapped in the back.

Since April 30 2015 it is illegal for a child under three not to be properly restrained in a child seat when travelling in a vehicle. Besides, parents’ love for their child should mean they want their child to be safely strapped into a vehicle that at any time could be involved in a collision.

We see parents daily dropping their kids off at school with the children not in car seats. We see them peering out of the window as their parents hurtle along the highways and we even see children standing between the seats.

Get very angry

Surely as an intelligent parent you understand that if you have a crash, the seatbelt will hold the driver and the airbag will cushion you, while your child will be thrown through the windscreen at the same speed you are travelling at.

Yes, we at Motor News get very angry about what we see on the roads regarding the lack of child safety.

Most modern cars are fitted with Isofix mountings to secure a child seat. Even if a car lacks Isofix mountings, child seats are designed to allow the seatbelt to provide maximum anchorage while the seat provides additional protection.

We let our sister television station, Ignition TV, use our long-term Ford Kuga recently to spend an afternoon with Peggie Mars, who runs the Wheel Well child seat non-governmental organisation based in Brightwater Commons in Randburg, Johannesburg. Mars is passionate and knowledgeable about child safety.

Peggie Mars (right) provides advice on fitting the seat and the child correctly. Picture: MARK SMYTH
Peggie Mars (right) provides advice on fitting the seat and the child correctly. Picture: MARK SMYTH

The wife and I always make sure the children are properly strapped in when they travel in the car, even just around the corner to the shop, but what was fascinating was how Mars explained the right way to fit the child seat. It differs depending on the car but it is essential to buy the right seat to suit your car and your circumstances.

There are the obvious things such as making sure you can access a seat easily if you own a sporty two-door vehicle, but what about the recline on the rear seat? Often we find as we jump in and out of test vehicles that a seat has too much of a slope to fix the child seat properly against the rear seat. It is important that a child seat is as solidly fixed in place as possible, so again this is something to look at — don’t simply buy the first seat you see.

The recline in the Kuga, like many other SUVs, is adjustable to ensure it fits snugly against the back of the child seat.

There are other tips too, like having the child seat diagonally across from the driver. Hijacking is a real possibility in SA and with the seat diagonal to you, the driver can reach back easily in a nonthreatening way to unclip the child and beckon the hijackers into the front seat. This is one of those things you might not think about, but you should.

And what child seat should you buy? Like buying a car, the best advice is to always buy the best and safest you can afford — remember, it might need to save your child’s life.

Fit seats correctly

If you want advice then give Mars a shout or drop by the shop and if you are upgrading your seat then hand in your old one because Wheel Well will refurbish it and get it to someone who cannot afford to buy a new seat themselves.

It was an interesting afternoon seeing just how important it is to fit child seats correctly. Make sure you do, because it could save your child’s life.

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