There is nothing more important to a parent than the safety of their child. We protect our children from harm every day- we don’t let them talk to strangers, we cut their food in small pieces, we don’t let them run in the street.
Why should we neglect to protect them when we are in the car?
It seems that here in Israel, there is a dearth of knowledge about car seat safety and our children are in danger.
On the first day of school, yet again, I saw the desperate need for change. I witnessed children improperly buckled, car seats barely restrained, and worst of all children standing up while the car was still moving! In my years here I have seen women nursing while driving, children standing up in the front seat, toddlers sitting on the drivers lap while the car was in motion.
The only thing standing in the way of a child being seriously injured in a car accident is their car seat. Perhaps you haven’t seen the crash test videos. In my training I have seen many, and you can’t imagine the catastrophic results to a child’s body, when unrestrained in an accident. It takes one second for a nightmare to occur.
Why don’t we take car seat and booster safety seriously in this country? As a mother of four young children, I find this simply terrifying.
A study published by Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP) shows that 57% of all car crashes happen within 10 minutes or fewer from home. This number demonstrates that all it takes is one small second for life to change forever. Why would anyone take that chance, even when just driving in their own neighborhood? In a country that promotes families and children in every way, I can’t help but wonder why car seat and booster safety is basically ignored.
Over the past year I decided that I will devote my time and energy to help change the way car seat and booster safety is perceived in Israel. Last year I started a Facebook group Car Safety in Israel- הכי בטוח להיות בטוח and this summer I completed a Safe Kids course on child passenger safety. With the new knowledge I gained, I would like to promote child passenger safety education in Israel, empower every Israeli caregiver throughout the country, and give them a greater understanding of the importance of car safety.
It is during this introspective time of year, during the High Holidays, that we look to make critical changes in our lives. Together, we can change our perspective on car seat education and work to promote safety. I believe we can make these important changes through a number of important steps:
First, it must begin with education. Seminars, workshops, and handouts should be available to all caregivers to help get the information into the hands of parents or caregivers transporting children.
Second, guidelines must be created that go beyond the law, so that a clear concise set of rules are set for all to uphold.
These guidelines include:
- Ensuring proper installation of the car seat, as per instructions given in the manual.
- Strapping children into their car seats so that it is tight enough that it can pass the pinch test- when pinching the webbing at the child’s collarbone if you can grasp any material and pinch it, it is too loose.
- According to a recent policy statement by the American Academy of Pediatrics children should be rear facing in a car seat until they reach the weight or height limit allowed by the manufacturer on their convertible car seat, around age 3-4.
- Children should remain in a harnessed car seat until they outgrow their car seat and can sit properly in a booster for the entire car ride, around age 5-7.
- Children should be in a booster seat until they can pass the 5 step test (back against vehicle, knees bent at edge of seat, lap belt on top of thighs not belly, shoulder belt between neck and shoulder, and sit properly) usually around age 10-12.
- No children under the age of 13 in the front seat with an active air bag.
If your local matnas, iriya, community center, non profit organization, tipat chalav, or kupat cholim is interested in car seat education, we can partner together to promote safety.
Cars can be dangerous, yet there is so much we can do to try to prevent damage to our most precious cargo.
Let us work together to change the way car safety is perceived in Israel.
Sara Friedman is a certified CPST. For more information contact firstname.lastname@example.org