All parents want to protect their children to the best of their ability. This includes travelling by car. Despite this, children are injured and die unecessarily in cars because their child seats are incorrectly installed or are not suitable for their age, height or weight. Or, worse still, because they are travelling in cars without either child seats or safety belts. Since this is often due to lack of knowledge, Volvo Cars has produced a manual describing how pregnant women and children of different ages can travel as safely as possible in the car.
"Pregnant women or new parents have many questions, especially how the newest addition to the family can be carried safely in the car," says Lotta Jakobsson, Child Safety Specialist at the Volvo Cars Safety Centre. "We get many questions about the safest place in the car for the child, how he or she should be secured in the child seat and whether a safety belt can harm the mother-to-be. These are answered in our new child safety manual."
Lotta Jakobsson explains that a child's head is big and heavy relative to its body. The head of a nine-month-old baby accounts for no less than 25 percent of the child's body weight, compared with 6 percent in an adult. A child's neck and neck vertebraes are not fully developed and are very different from those of an adult. In a frontal collision, the head of a forward-facing occupant is thrown forward with violent force. However, while the neck of an adult can withstand this stress relatively well, that of a small child cannot. And since frontal collisions are the most common and usually the most violent type, it is particularly important that small children are seated facing the rear.
"Facing the rear is absolutely the safest way of travelling in a car and Volvo Cars recommends this as far as practically possible," comments Lotta.
Research based on real-life accidents
Among other sources, child safety research carried out by Volvo Cars, as well as the recommendations contained in the new manual, are based on the company's own studies of real-life road accidents. The Volvo Cars Accident Research Team database contains details of over 36,000 accidents, involving more than 60,000 people.
"These accident statistics are unique of their kind," comments Lotta Jakobsson. "The team's studies show clearly that rear-facing child seats offer a very high degree of protection."
Protection for older children
The Volvo Cars child safety manual also deals with questions such as the age at which the child may be seated facing forward and, in that case, what type of protection is suitable.
"At the earliest, we advise parents not to face a child forward until it has outgrown its rear-facing seat and has reached an age of at least 3 years," adds Lotta. "By then, the body proportions have evened out and the neck has developed. However, the child is still too small to use a safety belt alone and a child booster cushion should be used. This ensures that the lap belt is in secure contact with the thighs, not against the child's stomach, thus protecting the delicate internal organs in a crash situation. To encourage this practice, Volvo Cars recently introduced an integrated two-stage child booster cushion in its new V70 and XC70. The lower level is suitable for children between 115 and 140 cm in height, while the upper level is designed for smaller children between 95 and 120 cm."
Child safety is not just a matter of technical solutions. Unfortunately, knowledge of how children should travel safely in cars is lacking in many parts of the world. In many cases, children travel completely unrestrained or secured incorrectly in protective equipment not designed for them. In addition, attitudes and legislation vary from country to country.
"We hope and believe that our safety manual will be very useful to everybody who carries their children in the car," concludes Lotta Jakobsson.
Among other outlets, the manual will be available from Volvo dealers and as part of various market activities.
Volvo Cars has a long tradition of child safety development and the company currently offers four different child seats, two of which have been developed in collaboration with Britax, one of the world's leaders in child restraints.
For further information, please contact Maria Bohlin at firstname.lastname@example.org, tel. +46-31-325 70 79
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