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Don’t forget the kids

Discovering, of late, that safety has been taken seriously by car manufacturers in the last decade has changed, for many, the way that they approach buying a new car.  Safety is all about how the occupants are kept safe inside the shell of a crashing car. 

To start with, it was the seatbelts that offered a car’s driver and occupants a means by which they were not hurled around willy-nilly in a car crash.  Introducing ABS to premium cars in the eighties enabled control in emergency braking – particularly in the wet. 

Airbags were then introduced for the driver.  Bizarrely, after a period of time, the powers-at-be-only then decided to offer an airbag to the front passenger as well.  Airbag technology has become so advanced these days that you’ll find airbags for Africa inside most top brand cars – though that’s probably not fair, because it hasn’t taken long for the mainstream models to equip their fleet with a full array of airbags.  They knew that safety features were becoming a big selling point, and so they surrendered to public demand.

All sorts of active safety features (often onboard electronic aids) like accident avoidance systems, good visibility from a driver’s seat, ABS, EBD, TCS, ESC, EBA, low noise level in the car’s interior, legibility of instrumentation and warning symbols, heads-up displays, intelligent speed adaptation, cruise control and even night vision make travelling in the best cars the safest bet. 

At present, child safety is right at the fore in crash safety design.  For many years, a lap belt was all that was available to the middle passenger (often the child) in the back seats.  This was never the best option, and manufacturers soon made three-point safety belts in the rear seats standard – though even today you’ll find the odd car skimping on this one! 

Today, crash testing looks out for the child so much more.  Ratings given for child safety include even the fitting instructions for a range of popular child seats, the car’s ability to accommodate the child safety seats appropriately and their performance in front and side impact tests.  

What about airbag systems?  Do they endanger a child?  Actually, they can.  Never place a rear-facing child restraint on the front passenger seat with an active frontal protection airbag.  Some vehicles are designed to allow for the passenger airbag to be deactivated if a child’s weight is detected in the front passenger seat.  If you are in any doubt about when it is safe to use a rear-facing child seat in the front seat of a car, consult the vehicle handbook for more information or place them in the rear seats.  It’s better to be safe than sorry.

In an accident, where is the safest place for a child seat?  Airbags aside, it is actually safest to place a small child in a child seat on the rear seats.  My personal choice would be in the middle with a three-point safety seat belt.  This is because in the middle rear-seat, it would seem to me, that they would be protected from any side impact better.  Some people argue that the left rear seat is the safest because side collisions are more common from the right, and that they are the furthest away from RHS-offset head-on collisions.

Before installing your child restraint on any seat, it is essential to check that the intended seat position is suitable for use with a child seat.  Information on this should be available in the vehicle manufacturer’s handbook – if the vehicle manufacturer has got any nous. 

If you’re still not sure, then buy a new Volvo!