Anything that may be written or said about child safety rarely takes into account that they are the most vulnerable people in the vehicle. At Fundación MAPFRE we are very aware of the importance of explaining to parents and guardians the need for children to ride in cars with the most protection.
On this occasion we echo the Guidelines of the Cincinnati Children's Hospital in Ohio, United States (link), in which special attention is paid to children with special needs. The thing is that, much to our dismay, conventional car seats do not cover the needs of these children. This organization is one of the few that encourages the development of pediatric-only guidelines that have become reference resources.
We have told you about the different systems available on the market for children with special needs to ride in cars protected and the most comfortable possible. However, it is also important to follow a series of recommendations:
- The design of a child safety seat must never be modified and the use indicated in its instruction manual must not be deviated from – unless it was subjected to a series of crash tests and is approved for this special use.
- The seats that better support the trunk and protect are those with a five-point internal harness.
- One solution to keep the baby's head from falling forward is to incline the back of the chair so it forms a 45º angle regarding the vertical, but only if the seat manufacturer allows it and this is mentioned in the instructions. For children who weigh more than 9 kilos with little head control, a convertible, front-facing seat with a reclinable back can be used.
- To improve the lateral postural support of the body and head rolled up towels or blankets can be used. They can also be placed between the harness strap between the legs of the child and his/her body to keep him/her from sliding down in the chair, or even underneath the knees to elevate the legs.
- Never use straps and other elements – independent of the rest of his/her body – to hold the child's head.
- If medical equipment – monitors, oxygen tanks, suction machines, crutches, wheel chairs or ventilators – must be accommodated along with the child, it should be thoroughly fastened and secured in the vehicle. To do so, never use the same seatbelt as that which secures the child's seat. Take into account that the duration of the batteries of this medical equipment must be greater than double the estimated duration of the ride.
For active children, what do the guidelines recommend?
The Guidelines of the Cincinnati Children's Hospital recommends making frequent stops to rest and never to remove the child from his/her seat when the vehicle is moving. If the child needs a break, make a stop as soon as it is safe.
It is also important not to reward behaviors such as shouting or begging with exceptions to the aforementioned.