CHILD PASSENGER SAFETY WEEK: TEACH ROAD SAFETY TO YOUR CHILD.
Child passenger safety is at the core of Wheel Well’s mission, therefore we especially look forward to this year’s Child Passenger Safety Week from 17-23 September 2023.
Child Passenger Safety Week was a campaign that began in the United States. It has since been adopted globally by other countries since its start seven years ago. The campaign emphasises correct car seat usage for children throughout their development. It also aligns with Wheel Well’s “Car Seats for Kids” campaigns, sharing the same goals.
Besides creating awareness throughout the week of the campaign, Seat Check Saturday forms part of the campaign. This dedicates a specific day to encourage parents to check that they are using the correct seat for their child’s developmental stage. It also helps parents ensure that they are using their car seat as intended, as well as making sure it is correctly installed.
Car seats and other child vehicle restraints are effective in preventing serious injuries or death to young passengers on our roads. Despite this, the NHTSA, the organisation responsible for starting Child Passenger Safety Week, found that in the US, 46% of car seats are used incorrectly.
In South Africa, this number is higher in the absence of widespread awareness and legislation to enforce effective road safety. Families in developing countries are also more likely to find financial barriers to ensuring that their children are safely restrained in a vehicle.
A 2020 South African study found that only 7.8% of children in their survey were correctly restrained.
We have released several articles in the past providing practical advice for parents regarding how they can keep their children safe in a vehicle. This month, we would like to take a different approach to this. Road and vehicle safety is always the responsibility of the parent or guardian, however engaging with your children regarding road safety can help plant the seed of awareness in your little one’s mind. We would like to look at ways you can engage them on the topic of road safety.
LEARNING THROUGH PLAY
Often we underestimate a child’s capacity for reason. With the right approach, children are capable of understanding more than we give them credit for. If you have a fussy child, perhaps strong-willed and vocal in their likes and dislikes, they might not take to their car seat as enthusiastically as others. But a restrained child is not just safer for them, but for everyone. A rambunctious child on the loose is a huge distraction and stress for the driver. Thus they must become acclimated to using a car seat.
If your child fights against their car seat, help them understand the importance of it through play. Even a young child on some level understands that getting hurt is not nice. If you’re unable to reason with them directly, using their favourite doll or teddy might be more effective in getting your point across. Appeal to their sense of caring.
You could approach it like this:
● Let them roleplay as the “parent” to their Teddy and show them how to put Teddy in the car seat so that it will be safe.
● Show them how the car seat will keep Teddy safe if you have to brake suddenly or if the car is jolted, such as in a crash.
●Ask them to feel the straps and see if they are too loose or too tight. If they are too tight, Teddy might be uncomfortable. If they are too loose, show how Teddy would slip right out.
●The latter can also be explained concerning seat belts. Show why mom and dad, or older siblings, can safely use a seat belt. Explain how they are too small for a seat belt, thus explaining why they need to use a car seat.
●Have your child ask Teddy if he is comfortable. This will show your child that they have a voice in expressing their own discomfort, within reason. It additionally gives them the words and means of expressing the source of that discomfort. Oftentimes if a young child is kicking up a fuss over something new or different, their frustration can be exacerbated by their inability to express why they don’t like it. This then creates distress for them which is not conducive to reasoning with them. It is equally frustrating for a child if a parent is unaware of something that is creating discomfort. Straps are too tight, something poking them, a sneaky twisted strap – and they do not know how to effectively communicate what is wrong.
● It is also important to try and communicate to your child that you make them use a car seat because you love them. Once Teddy is safely strapped in, explain to your child that they’ve been a good “parent” by making sure their “child” is safe.
● It is additionally important to never frame car seat usage as a punishment. If used as a threat against bad behaviour, or the result of being naughty, it will create a negative relationship in your child’s mind. If they are already suspicious of their car seat, using it as a punishment will reinforce the idea of “Car Seat = Bad”. Rather try and create a positive relationship between your child and their car seat. Rather focus on how it will keep them safe and that being made to use it comes from a place of love and not punishment.
● Be sure to also praise and thank Teddy for sitting nicely and calmly in their car seat. This will help provide your child with a standard of how they should behave while strapped in.
This is an exercise that can be repeated throughout their different developmental stages and transitions through different seats. As their understanding grows, you can build on this foundation to better explain why they need to use a car seat.
ROAD SAFETY THROUGH GAMES,
RHYMES & CHARACTERS
As many parents already know, the best way to instil lessons in our children is by framing it as a game – that way they don’t know they’re doing “boring” learning!
Many TV shows aimed at young kids these days carry an educational message. This allows parents to explain concepts and ideas through characters their children already love. Whether your kids are fans of Paw Patrol, Peppa Pig, Bluey or the like, these shows often already cover the topic of road safety. Some kids may find adopting road safety rules more palatable if they have seen their favourite character do the same,
or if they perceive the lesson as coming from said character.
An episode of Bluey, titled Road Trip, for example, shows Bluey and his sibling strapped into their car seats for a road trip, while dealing with the topic of how to prevent boredom on long drives.
This short Paw Patrol clip covers some basic road safety rules that can help you start the conversation about road safety with your child.
For primary school-aged kids, creating a game out of spotting different road signs/traffic lights and what they mean will encourage them to develop an awareness of how roads work. This in turn will provide them with the tools to help them understand road safety better and how best to apply those lessons, as they grow older and evermore independent.
Songs and rhymes can also be an effective way to help children remember rules and lessons. Thankfully the internet is abundant with little songs and rhymes you can teach your child to help them remember.
If you have any questions regarding this, or want to ensure your car seat is correctly installed, Wheel Well will be doing a Car Seat handout day at SuperQuick in Irene on 30th September 2023. We would love to meet you and your little one and help you make sure they are safe on our roads.