When I was pregnant with my first child, one of my primary purchases was a carseat. I don’t think I paid a lot of attention to the use of carseats in Anguilla until I had my own infant’s life to care for, but whether you are a parent or not, the safety of our nation’s children should be prioritized. Something I began to notice with my young children was the surprise people expressed upon witnessing my carseat use. A lot of Anguillians had some misguided notions of infant car safety such as:
- The baby’s head is leaning on its side in the carseat which is akin to child neglect.
- If a baby is in a carseat, it should be on the front seat where I can see the baby.
- If the baby is in a carseat in the backseat, it needs to be facing front so I can see the baby.
- A baby is not safe in a carseat.
Recently, my younger sister made a Facebook post about the blatant misguided “safety” of children in cars in Anguilla. She was not wrong. I cringe at the way people in my country drive with their children. You will pass people with toddlers standing in between the front seats, bracing themselves against the backs for stops. You will drive behind people with their young child standing in the backseat peeking out the rear glass at you. Small children will be seated in the front or back seat sans seatbelt. Children will be riding around in the back of flatbed trucks. Most shocking: I have seen women emerge from cars with the newborn baby balanced on their lap beneath the steering wheel while they drove. I kid you not.
I love my country and I love my people. I want to believe that these actions are done out of ignorance, but with the media as widespread as it is in today’s world, it is harder and harder to chalk it up to lack of knowledge.
Anguillians, we need to stop letting our children float around cars like ambient light. If there were to be an accident involving a car where a toddler was standing in between the seats, that poor baby could go right through the windshield. My son is five years old and still in his Britax five-point harness seat. People express surprise at this: “Wha’ you got dat big chil’ in a baby chair fuh?” Because I love him. Because he is my whole world and if something happened to him because I didn’t have him strapped into a carseat properly, I would never forgive myself.
I want to take time on this post to educate people in Anguilla as to carseat safety and the CORRECT use of carseats. Just because you have your child in a carseat doesn’t mean they are safe. You need to be using the seat correctly for this to happen.
- Infant bucket-style carseats are only good for children up to 1 year of age (or a specific weight and height which varies according to manufacturer). They are meant to be used rear-facing which means you install it with the back of the carseat facing the front of the car. This is because your baby’s neck muscles are not strong enough to withstand the impact of a car accident and multiple studies have shown that a rear-facing position is much safer. This is the simple physics of the scenario. If you are uncomfortable with the fact that you cannot see your baby’s face, a lot of companies sell mirrors which attach to the backseat so that you can look at your baby in the rearview. Your infant will love looking at themselves in the mirror as well, so this is a win-win purchase.
- When your child ages out of the infant carseat, you need to get a five-point harness toddler seat. Now, there are a lot of these styles which are convertible and can be used from newborn straight until your child is 55lbs. The type I have is like this, but I preferred the infant carseat for the newborn stage because you can take it in and out of the car with the handle. It is convenient for visits to Baby Clinic or when you need to run errands or do quick visits and don’t want to be taking the baby in and out of the carseat because they are sleeping and will wake up thus turning into a screaming monster (both children were like this). Anyway, when your child ages out of the infant seat, purchase a toddler carseat. The major reason your toddler should no longer be in the infant seat is because he/she is too big now and the seat will no longer protect the way it should. Do your research and choose the seat which is right for you in terms of budget or style.
- The baby or toddler’s chest clip needs to be ON THE CHEST. If the chest clip is not on the chest, it can crush organs or crack ribs in the event of a car accident. Generally, you just need to be sure that the clip lines up with the child’s armpits in order to know that it is in the right position.
- The straps of the carseat need to fit your baby or toddler correctly. I have seen a lot of babies in Anguilla in carseats, but with ill-fitting straps. This is really, really dangerous because, again, in the event of a crash the seat will not protect the baby properly. The instructions in terms of strap position vary according to manufacturer, but generally the straps are too loose if you are able to pinch the excess when the baby or toddler is buckled in the harness.
- Incorrect carseat installation. I’ve actually seen people with the baby in a carseat and the carseat sitting on the seat. Please be very sure that your carseat is installed safely in the vehicle before driving. Infant seats come with bases which are super convenient because you can click the seat in and out. If a carseat is too loose in the vehicle, it can’t do its job correctly. Be sure that you cannot wiggle the seat around too much after you have installed it.
- Do not put carseats in the front seat. This is incredibly unsafe because the airbag could go off at speeds up to 200mph. Similarly, children should not be riding around the front seat at all for this exact reason.
- Carseats expire. I know this sounds silly, but it makes a lot of sense when you think about it. A carseat is mostly made from plastic and foam padding which can age over time due to heat, use, and the sun. Check that the carseat you are using isn’t past its recommended date.
- It’s much safer to employ extended-rear-facing. This term is used to refer to the practice of not “turning the child forward-facing” too soon. Again, children should NOT be turned forward-facing until the age of one because of neck muscle control and development. I chose extended-rear-facing, which is keeping a child in a rear-facing seat until age 2 or beyond. I felt that this was the best choice for us as we often travel to America with our children. If in a high-impact crash on a freeway, my toddler son would’ve been safer in a rear-facing position. This is why I chose a toddler seat which allows extended-rear-facing as well as forward-facing options. We decided to turn HB forward-facing with he was almost 3.
- Children in Kindergarten should be in a booster seat, at least. Please consider purchasing a booster for your kindergartener as the current practice of having your five year old loose in the backseat is unsafe. Even a seatbelt is not safe for children at this stage because they are not tall enough. A booster seat will help raise your child up and control the positioning of the seatbelt so that they can be safe in the car.
Another thing I would like to say while I am on this topic is that it would be wonderful if the government would grant duty-free importation for carseats so that we can promote the safety of children in Anguilla.
Please share this post amongst your friends and on your social media so we can raise awareness of this growing problem in our country.