Here are surprising, and potentially life-threatening car safety "don'ts" many Singaporean parents are still doing.

For families with little children, cars are not seen so much as a luxury as it is a necessity.
Having a family car makes school drop offs and pick-ups easier, especially during the monsoon seasons.

Plus, parents don’t have to spend so much time commuting by public transport and can make it home early after work to have dinner with their kids and spend time with them.

Then, there’s always the benefit of jumping into the car on weekends and checking out off-the-beaten-track fam-friendly hot spots that may be out of reach by bus or the MRT.
Cars do have their plus points, but they can also end up being dangerous, if certain protocols are not followed. And this goes beyond just having a car seat for your kids.

Here are 10 ways parents in Singapore are making drive-time dangerous for everyone in the car, especially their kids, without even realising it.

Infographic: Syahirah Maszaid


Mistake #1: As a safe driver, I’m immune to all types of distractions

As long as you’re human, you’re open to distractions. So, chuck your ego aside and realise that there are certain things in your car that could easily cause you to lose concentration and end up in an accident. First up, car curtains – as helpful as they are in keeping the sun out – can block your blind spot when you’re switching lanes or making a turn. LCD screens at the front seat allows the passenger next to you be entertained, but can also distract you when driving. Even a quick glance up to see what’s going on on the screen is enough to make you swerve slightly or not realise the car in front of you has come to an abrupt stop. By the way, using your phone and driving is the new public health hazard. According to a study from the Virginia Tech Transportation Institute, people using their phones behind the wheel double their chances of being involved in an accident.

Mistake #2: If my kids cry, I should take them out of their car seat or turn them forward facing

“It’s not easy for everyone to get used to, but even if your kids resist, they need to be secured in a car seat in a moving vehicle,” says Elise Mawson, founder of Taxi Baby and Singapore’s only Certified Child Passenger Travel Safety Technician. “If you do happen to have an accident while they’re unrestrained, the excuse ‘but they were crying’ won’t help repair their injuries.” By the way, turning your toddler’s car seat forward may stop with the fussing, but did you know rear-facing is five times safer for 2-year-olds? So, do your best to keep them rear-facing until they outgrown their seat, which is around 3 or 4 years old, as per the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommendation.

Mistake #3: Kids only need car seats until they’re 4 to 6 years old. And they can sit in the front seat at that age

“Wrong – kids need child restraints until they’re at least 1.35m or 10 years old,” notes Mawson. “And this includes booster seats.” If you’re using a booster seat, Mawson says to make sure the seat belt is fitted snugly across your child’s upper thighs, and to feed any excess belt slack back into the retractor. Just because you feel junior is old enough to sit in front with you, doesn’t make it safe. According to the AAP, children younger than 13 should ride in the back seat and use lap and shoulder seat belts for the best protection.

Mistake #4: Airbags protect my kids, even my baby

Choosing a vehicle with good safety credentials is very important. It’s great that your new SUV comes with six airbags to help bolster you from injuries should you get into an accident. However, Mawson reminds parents that airbags are designed for adults, not children, which is the main reason why kids should never sit in the front seat. According to Babycentre, airbags inflate with such a strong force that they can cause severe head and neck injuries to a child. Nor should you place a rear-facing car seat in the front seat. The seat positions baby’s head so close to the dashboard that they're directly in the airbag's way when it gets activated.

Mistake #5: I don’t own a car, so I don’t need a car seat

“Statistically, three times as many babies die in car accidents in Singapore compared to the US, based on 2014 ICA data,” notes Mawson. “Babies held in their mothers’ arms cannot be protected in a car accident, and while Singapore’s taxis may be exempt from the laws of car seats, they’re not exempt from the laws of physics.” So even if you travel in cars infrequently, your kids need to be in a car seat – every single time.

Mistake #6: Sometimes I use a baby carrier in a car or let my child sit on my lap

This is the most dangerous way for children to travel, warns Mawson. Even in a very low speed accident, their chance of survival is miniscule. “Baby carriers do not provide any protection at all in the event of an accident – at best they stop kids from moving around the vehicle, but if you find yourself in an accident, the kids will incur injuries equivalent to if they had been climbing around the car.” According to Mawson, in crash tests, baby carriers have been shown to disintegrate in less than 0.2 seconds of a collision, as they are not rated for the serious forces present in an accident. If you have absolutely no choice, Mawson suggest putting each child in their own seat belt and try to keep them in an upright position. It’s much safer than wearing them.

Photo: iStock

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