How to keep your child safe in the car

How to keep your child safe in the car
PHOTO: The Straits Times

Parents will do anything and everything for their children, no matter how inconvenient it is, just so that their little ones can be kept safe from harm.

However, when it comes to the use of child car seats and restraints — an important safety measure to prevent life-threatening or limb-threatening injuries in road traffic accidents — there is still a gap between parents’ knowledge of the law and the actual installation and proper usage of these child car seats.

A recent study involving over 2,000 children in Singapore found that more than half, including many infants, were unrestrained when caught in a road traffic accident. 

“These are highly preventable injuries,” says Dr Ronald Tan, Consultant, Department of Emergency Medicine, KK Women’s and Children’s Hospital, who highlights that most of the children injured in road traffic accidents are motor vehicle passengers.

Dangers of not using appropriate child car seats and restraints 

A child’s body is much smaller and more fragile. As such, when collisions occur, children — and especially infants — are more susceptible to injuries, and potentially, death.

The lack of an age-appropriate child car seat, according to Dr Tan, is a major risk factor for children involved in road traffic accidents. 


In an interview with theAsianparent, Dr Tan explains that children without child car seats and restraints who are involved in road accidents may suffer from life-threatening or limb-threatening injuries.

“These include injuries to the head or face, as well as injuries to other sites such as [the] chest, abdomen, spine, and bone fractures,” the 2019 Mitsui Sumitomo Insurance Welfare Foundation (MSIWF) Research Grant Recipient adds.  

In the worst possible scenario, the child may die from the injuries sustained, says Dr Tan. Hence, a child car seat is essential in keeping the child safe and secure during rides, regardless of the journey distance.

Parents not using appropriate child car restraints

It is mandatory by law in Singapore for all children (aged 12 and under) to be placed in a child car seat. 

“This includes infants and it is important for the child to get used to being in a car seat from an early age,” says Dr Tan who is currently conducting a pilot study funded by the MSIWF Research Grant, alongside Dr Chong Shu-Ling from the Department of Emergency Medicine, KKH, and Dr Nirmal Kavalloor Visruthan from the Department of Neonatology, KKH.


The new research, which aims to equip parents with knowledge and skills on proper child passenger safety to reduce child injuries in road accidents, builds on a previous 2017 KKH-led study on “Understanding parental knowledge and beliefs on the use of a child car restraints”, which has identified parents’ reasons for not using appropriate child car restraints.

In some instances, according to the study, parents driving their children may consider themselves as experienced drivers with good driving skills — and that it would be unlikely for them to be involved in a road accident. Other parents may think that the distance of the journey is short, hence deeming a child car restraint as unnecessary. 

Other factors are attributed to how parents found having an appropriate child car restraint inconvenient and that there was no strict enforcement of the law — even if most of them were aware of it. 

Parents and caregivers can make a lifesaving difference

As parents, it is our due diligence to take our child’s safety into utmost concern and to ensure that car seat safety should be the top priority while we are driving, no matter the distance travelled.

Practical measures and skills parents can take towards ensuring proper child passenger safety are as follows: 

  • Ensure protective helmets are properly fitted and proper shoes (not slippers or sandals, which do not afford proper protection) for activities like skateboarding, roller blading, skating or cycling
  • Teach children road safety habits

Dr Tan cautions against allowing children to play or go on the roads unsupervised.

He explains that child pedestrians are uniquely vulnerable for two reasons: firstly, they are prone to errors of judgment and find it hard to control their impulses; secondly, drivers’ view of child pedestrians are easily obstructed due to their small physical size.

Parents should also set a good example by wearing seat belts in the car, wearing bicycle helmets when cycling, and only crossing the road at pedestrian crossings. 

  • Ensure the child is in an age-appropriate child car seat while in a vehicle

Children under 13 should not ride in the front passenger seat.

Having your child is in the appropriate car seat or booster seat can save his or her life. Parents can view more information on selecting a suitable child car restraint and safety measures here.

The information in this article is contributed by Dr Ronald TAN, 2019 MSIWF Research Grant Recipient, and Consultant, Department of Emergency Medicine, KK Women’s and Children’s Hospital.

This article was first published in theAsianparent.

This website is best viewed using the latest versions of web browsers.