Saturday, 27 March 2010

I sometimes wonder...

...if I'm ploughing a lone furrow by strapping my children into child car seats.

"The law says that all children up to 135cm tall (around 4'5"), or the age of 12, whichever comes first, in the front or rear seats in cars, vans and other goods vehicles must travel in the correct child restraint for their weight with very few exceptions." (Think! Road Safety website).

Recently we discovered that H8 is in fact four feet five inches tall and therefore can now travel without a seat. We mostly do use it though, because we've paid for it, she's still comfortable in it, it keeps the little bugger still  and the sides stop her rolling about when I go round corners on two wheels (joking!).

It has nice little cup holders for hiding sweetie wrappers, shells, pebbles and other such treasure and it raises her up just enough so she can see out of the windows better and into the front where she can make critical comments about the standard of my driving and establish if I really do know a) where we are; b) where we are going, c) whether we are doing this properly or not (H: "How do you know Mummy?" Me: "Because I've been on this planet for 43 years." H remains unconvinced that I know anything about anything, least of all driving and navigating. I can't wait until it's her turn to learn and I'm teaching her... anyway, I digress.)

R6 is not yet tall enough to travel without a booster seat (according to the law) and would very much like to, if only for the novelty. She, like her big sister, remains strapped in under threat of attention from the police if she doesn't. B works at police HQ so we have lots of ammunition should either of them object. It's the law, the police say so, no argument.

Car seats or booster seats are not expensive. The ones for older kids are simple and quick to fit (I'm excluding baby seats from this - that's a whole other ball game). They're cheap (our spare was £3 from Lidl) so why don't parents want to use them? When I'm out and about I see so many kids not strapped in at all or just using a normal seatbelt, usually strapped in such a way as to bisect the child's neck. I have seen children sitting on adults' laps, belt across the pair (if you stop suddenly, the adult squashes the child).

Surely all children are precious to their parents so why is it such a pain to strap them in?

Perhaps I'm sensitive and over cautious, but I did once write about a news story about a child who was critically injured flying through the windscreen when his father had a crash, so you can't blame me. In that case the father was "tricking" the police by strapping the seatbelts across the seats, but then sitting on top of them. This, apparently, saves the bother of using seatbelts but looks to the police as if you are wearing them. Of course the police wouldn't want you to actually wear the seat belt. Of course they enjoy scraping you and your nearest and dearest off the bonnets of your cars and picking bits of glass out of your head.

My mother was once told to fuck off by a woman at a petrol station who was travelling in the front of her car with her baby loose on her lap. Mum knew the woman would swear at her, but she couldn't let her drive off without saying something.

When I was a child booster seats had not been invented. We travelled loose and when we were very little and Mum had a Mini van (reg BOX something, so we used to call it the Minibox) there were no seats in the back, so we sat on the wheel arches. Better still was Dad's MGBGT which had a roll back roof. That was better because we could stand on the back seats, head and arms out of the top while he drove around the lanes of Pembrokeshire. There was much less traffic in those days, cars went slower, but people - including children - did get hurt and killed being thrown from cars because they were not strapped in. (The mother of one of my primary school contemporaries went through her car windscreen. She survived, but with horrendous scars.) That's why we had Clunk Click Every Trip. That's why recently there has been a campaign to strap in rear passengers (they discovered that seat belted drivers survived crashes happily until they were hit from behind by a loose passenger).

Yes, I am extra-sensitive to all of this after years as a  local news reporter attending inquests, writing up police reports, going to sometimes quite awful court cases and interviewing the bereaved.

Tragedy happens all to often, but it can sometimes be avoided.

So my children, and their friends when they travel in my car, will always be strapped in as the law provides and possibly beyond. It's not rocket science and I want to keep them safe. Fortunately they have friends whose parents think the same, but I wonder what I would say or do if someone wanted to take my child in a car without a seatbelt (or in R6's case a booster seat too). 

1 comment:

  1. I cannot believe that there are parents so ignorant as to drive the way you describe; yet I know it must be so, or you would not have posted these details. Yet I remember - before the seatbelt age - driving my three young children from Surrey to Cornwall in my minivan, with them lying on eiderdowns, camping out in the back; or traveling from here in the midlands back to Surrey sitting in the back of a lorry. All I can say is that in the late sixties and early seventies there were far fewer cars on the road and the cars were not capable of such speed. It seems ridiculous now to even contemplate such foolishness.


I am sorry to have to add word verification thing again but I keep getting spammed.