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Pascal Hayek
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CHILD SAFETY IN CARS

What is more important than the safety and health of our children? From the moment they are born, we, as parents, try our best to protect them and ensure that they are safe.

 One of our main concerns and responsibilities is to create a safe environment for our children, whether they are at home, in school, in the bus, in the car and wherever they are, our children’s safety comes first.

Unlike in poor countries where famine and diseases are the main causes of death among children, according to statistic, motor vehicle injuries are the leading cause of death among children in the developed countries, but many of these deaths can be prevented.

Nowadays with the existence of a huge number of vehicles on the roads and lots of reckless drivers, the risk of accidents is always in increase. Car manufactures are working closely with Safety engineers in order to design and implement the best child restraint systems so to avoid or minimize injuries and fatalities during car accidents. One of the most important among these safety devices is the child seat.

Starting with a baby's very first journey home from the hospital, parents are responsible for ensuring their child's safety during travel.

 The Child seat

The youngest passengers need special protection in the car. Children up to the age of 12 or a height less than 150 cm. require special safety equipment like what we refer to as a car seat or a child seat.

This Child Restraint system is a restraint which is secured to the seat of an automobile equipped with safety harnesses or seat belts, to hold a child in the event of a crash. Small children must not be secured with a conventional seat belt because it is not designed for a child’s body proportion. When the belt is tightened during a collision, it might injure the child’s neck or he/she might slip through beneath the belt.

These seats are designed specifically to protect children from injury or death during collisions. Automobile manufacturers may integrate child safety seats directly into their vehicle's design. Most commonly, these seats are purchased and installed by consumers. Many regions require children defined by age, weight, and/or height to use a governmentally approved child safety seat when riding in a vehicle. Child safety seats provide passive restraints and must be properly used to be effective.

Child safety seats reduce the risk of death in passenger cars by 71% for infants, and by 54% for toddlers ages 1 to 4 years.

 According to researchers at the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia, for children 4 to 7 years, booster seats reduce injury risk by 59% compared to seat belts alone.

 

History

After the first automobile was manufactured and put on the market in the early 1900s, many modifications and adjustments have been implemented to protect those that drive and ride in these vehicles. Most restraints were put into place to protect adults without regard for children. Though child seats were beginning to be manufactured in the early 1930s, their purpose was not the safety of children. The purpose was to act as booster seats to bring the child to a height easier for the driving parent to see them. It wasn’t until 1962 that seats were invented with the purpose of protecting a child, by Leonard Rivkin, of Denver Colorado.

 

 

Design and Types

A wide variety of design issues must be considered for each type of child safety seat. The four most important design issues are safety (including meeting government regulations), ease of use (and this includes the child's comfort), style or appearance, and manufacturing feasibility. A strict set of government regulations (Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard [FMVSS] 213) establishes the seat back height, buckle release pressure, type of impact-absorbing foam, the wording of some labels, and much more. The seat also must be able to withstand a crash test of either two cars each traveling at 48 km/h hitting each other head-on or a car crashing into a parked car at 96 km/h. After the crash test, the seat must still meet certain performance criteria like buckle release pressure.

 

 

Types of child seats: Infant carriers, Child seats, Booster seats, Booster cushions.

Weight Categories

Restraints are tested and approved by weight rather than by size or age. But all seats will come with some indication of the likely age range covered.

Child restraints belong to one or more of the following size/weight categories or 'Groups' defined by UNECE Regulation 44:

Infant carrier (Group 0 and 0+) – up to 10kg (birth to 6-9 months) or up to 13kg (birth to 12-15 months)

Child seats (Group 1) – 9 to 18kg (approx. 9 months to 4 years)

Booster seats (Group 2 and 3) – 15-25kg (approx. 4-6 years)

Booster cushions (Group 3) – 22-36kg (approx. 6-11 years)

 

 

Infant Carriers (Groups 0 and 0+)

Birth to 10kg or 13kg (approx 6-9 or 12-15 months)

Newborn babies can't support their heads until the age of about six weeks so child seats for this group must be rear facing, designed to support the head, neck and back evenly.

From the point of view of safety it is better to keep children in rear facing restraints for as long as possible.

•Many infant carriers/baby seats are fitted using an adult lap and diagonal belt whilst the child is restrained by an integral harness. No additional fixing kit is required so these seats can be easily moved from one car to another.

•A growing number of infant carriers on the market can be fitted using the ISOFIX system - typically a 'base' with a front support leg to prevent forward rotation, attaches to the car and then the infant carrier is simply 'plugged-in' to the base.

Child Seats (Group 1)

9 to 18kg (approx 9 months - 4 years)

Features

Seats in this weight range commonly consist of a seat shell attached to a frame. The child is held into the seat by an integral five-point harness and the frame is usually attached to the car by using the adult seatbelts or the ISOFIX system.

Before buying check whether your car is fitted with ISOFIX anchorage points. Besides providing a more secure means of attaching the seat to the car these dedicated attachment points can also make it quicker and easier to fit a child seat correctly.

 

  

Booster Seats (Group 2)

 

 

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15kg upwards (from approx. 4 years)

Booster seats are light, easy to fit and popular with children. A happy child is less likely to distract you while you are driving.

There have been significant changes in this group and group 3 over the past few years as child seat manufacturers have developed seats to protect your child in a side impact as well as in a frontal crash. One in four crashes involves side impact so this is an important development.

In the past you might have thought in terms of a shallow-backed booster seat where the back can be removed to convert it to a booster cushion for older children.

Now the market is dominated by adjustable, high back boosters – seats with deep side wings the height of which can be adjusted to provide side impact protection until the child reaches 12 years or 135cm tall.

 

 

 

 

Booster Cushions (Group 3)

22kg upwards (from approx. 6 years)

Most booster seats are approved for groups 2 and 3 and can be adjusted to provide effective side and frontal impact protection for children all the way from around 4 years up to 12 years or 135cm tall.

There may however be occasions, for example when your child is to be picked up from school by another parent, where it's not convenient to use a 'high back booster'.

A booster cushion is a good alternative to the adult belt on its own as they improve the fit of the diagonal belt on the child's shoulder and ensure that the lap belt lies correctly across the child's thighs.

Booster cushions don't offer any side impact protection though and may disappear from the market in the future if European safety standards for child restraints impose minimum levels of side impact protection on all seats.

 

ISOFIX Child Restraints

 

 

ISOFIX, a standard system for attaching child restraints into cars was first proposed in the early 1990s though it took more than a decade for the technical standards to be agreed.

The idea is simple. Car makers provide small, cheap and inconspicuous attachment points in standard locations in new cars whilst child restraints have latches on the back to lock onto the mounting points in the car with a simple push/click.

Key benefits of ISOFIX

The original vision of ISOFIX was that it would:

•be a standard, universal means of attaching child restraints.

•eliminate misfitting problems common with the use of adult belts.

•improve dynamic performance of child restraints as the seat is directly and rigidly attached to the car structure.

These objectives have been achieved though it has to be said that the system is perhaps not as easy to understand and simple to use as hoped – cars don't all have the same anchorages and the seats aren't all 'universal' so you do still have to do your homework before buying and, critically, must check the vehicle handbook.

The Manufacturing Process

The child safety seat is made of polypropylene, a tough plastic that flexes under pressure and doesn't crack easily the way some other plastics do. The plastic is transported to the factory in the form of pebble-sized pellets; a major car seat maker receives train cars full of the pellets for its production.

Manufacture of the child safety seat begins with molding the shell. The plastic pellets are melted and injection-molded into forms for the shell. The molded forms are trimmed and cleaned. As soon as they are cooled, they are delivered to the assembly line.

 1. The parts made by outside suppliers are distributed to work stations along the assembly line. These include the foam padding, cover, harness, buckle, labels, and instruction. Usually, the assembly line does not use a conveyor belt; workers simply complete their portion of the work and hand the seat to the next person along the line. This enables personnel to work at their own pace and check their own work on the product.

2. The padded cover is placed on the shell and attached. The buckle assembly is secured to the shell, and the harness is threaded through the buckle, adjuster, and harness retainer.

3. The labels are secured on the safety seat, and instructions are packed in the storage compartment that is a mandatory part of design of the seat.

4. If the product is also to be sold with point-of-purchase pieces (hang tags) related to marketing or advertising, these are added before the seats are packed in cartons. Before packing, some seats may be selected for quality and performance reviews including crash testing.

5. In the packing department, the seats are packed in cartons that carry information and designs developed by marketing and advertising. Generally, the cartons are stacked and wrapped in plastic so the cartons are kept clean until they are ordered and shipped. The wrapped batches of cartons are stored on pallets and moved by forklift. Some are loaded directly into trucks for shipment or taken to inventory.

 

Quality Control

 Manufacturers maintain a quality control department and an established inspection system. At one manufacturer, for example, every person on the assembly line is expected and encouraged to report errors, and all seats are inspected on the line for visually detectable problems. Individual parts are typically compared to masters for correctness, and each product has a bill of materials that lists the part numbers of every part in the product. Product managers may also pull products off the line for review.

Crash testing is done to test child safety seat models. Cosco, Inc. is the only domestic car seat manufacturer with its own dynamic crash test sled for assuring quality and performance. Quality can be aided by the sharing of safety-related information among manufacturers.

 

 

Hazards

Manufacturers have quality controls to ensure seats are properly put together and packaged. However, it is not guaranteed that the included instructions are always adhered to and correctly followed. Up to 95% of the safety seats that are installed may not be the right seat for the child, may be hooked into the vehicle loosely, may be hooked with an incompatible belt in the vehicle, may have harnesses incorrectly fastened in some way, or may be incorrectly placed in front of air bags. In 1997, six out of ten children who were killed in vehicle crashes were not correctly restrained. In the picture below these inspection booths controlled by the police in order to make sure that the child seats are conform and well installed.

 

 

 

Other safety systems

 

Child safety locks are also built into the rear doors of most cars to prevent rear seat passengers from opening the doors both during transit and while the vehicle is stationary; vehicles have been built with this feature since the early 1980s. Although called a child lock it is equally effective for adult passengers. The lock is typically engaged via a small switch on the edge of the door that is only accessible when the door is open. Some cars implement the locking mechanism as a rotary device which must be turned with the vehicle key, this design prevents "sticky fingered" passengers from disabling the lock as they enter the vehicle. In both designs the lock is completely inaccessible, especially to the passenger, when the door is closed. When the child lock is engaged, the interior handle is rendered useless, usually by disconnecting the handle from the latch mechanism, or by locking the handle in place. In this state the passenger cannot open the door from the inside and is effectively "locked in", the passenger can only be released by someone lifting the outside handle. In addition to this, most cars have a door lock button close to the driver that can lock or unlock the rear doors. Some vehicles implement window-locking mechanisms as well, where the button is accessed by the driver.

 

 

Which safety measures are recommended for babies?

Your baby may be secured in your car in the following ways:

First and above all the child seat should be installed according to the car’s driver’s manual and the child correctly fastened to it.

In a child seat specially designed for infants, it is recommended that the child seat is installed on the rear seats and facing rearward. Rearward-facing provides the most protection. In case the child seat is to be fixed to the front passenger seat, then the passenger’s airbag should be deactivated. The front seat must be moved as far back as possible. A distance of at least 20cm must be left between the dashboard and the child seat, so as not to hurt your child in a head-on collision. When they're inflated, the airbags hit the passengers so hard that a child placed in front of an airbag may suffocate or be severely injured by the impact.

In both front and back seats, your child seat must be fastened with the car's three-point seat belt carefully, following the manufacturers' instructions. Five-point harnesses, which run across children's shoulders and hips and buckle between their legs, provide more safeguard than seat belts because they distribute the crash forces evenly over the strong, bony parts of children's bodies.

 

If a car is equipped with side airbags in the rear, keep as much distance as possible between the door and the child seat.

Remember that a baby should not sit in a child seat for more than 20 to 30 minutes a day because the muscles in their back are not fully developed. If the baby is not carried by car every day, they may be able to manage an occasional longer trip, with regular breaks.

If your child's head sticks out over the top of the child seat, the child seat is too small.

 

Parents should carefully select a car seat based on their child's age, height, and weight. Once parents have purchased a car seat, they should keep their child in that car seat for as long as possible, so long as the child fits the seat's height and weight requirements.

 

In conclusion, a child seat is essential and should not be discarded. Every day we come across cars where children are sitting in their parents’ laps instead of being fastened to their child seats. The government should start taking this seriously and strict measures should be taken against those who break the law.

 

 

Pascal Johnny Hayek B. Eng. AUB, 1983 Service Manager Porsche Service Centre, Kuwait

 

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