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Strap In: Transport Safety for Children

April, 2011
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kid-carFor those of us who grew up in Beijing in the ‘60s and ‘70s, bicycles were common transportation vehicles for most families. In preschool, we sat on the backs of our parents’ bikes as we cruised around town. In elementary school, we streamed through the hutongs, peddling with one foot propped under the bike frame. In high school, we joined the army of rush-hour bike commuters. And we somehow survived all of these experiences without helmets.

Back then, the streets were much quieter. On hot summer nights we would amuse ourselves by playing hide and seek or counting the cars that occasionally drove by. Fast-forward to 2011. Bike commuters have to fight through jammed crowds of private cars and taxis that seem to think they have the right of way. Private cars have replaced bikes as the average family’s main transportation vehicle. Transportation safety has become an increasingly important issue that requires our attention.

The following are some general safety tips concerning cars and bikes that I think every family should keep in mind.

Automobile Safety

Regarding cars, the two most important life-saving decisions parents can make for their children are 1) to use age- and size-appropriate restraints, and 2) to have children younger than 13 always sit in the back seat.

What Type of Car Seats or Restraining Methods Should I Use?

1.     An infant car seat should be positioned with the baby facing the back of the car until the baby weighs at least 10 kg and is 1-2 years old. Toddler car seats should be used when a child is at least 1 year old and weighs 10 kg. The child may sit in a forward-facing car seat when s/he weighs 18 kg or when his/her ears reach the top of the seat.

2.     Booster seats should be used when a child weighs more than 18 kg. Boosters are 60% safer than seat belts alone. When using a booster seat, both lap and shoulder belts should be used.

3.     Your child should stay in a booster seat until an adult seat belt fits properly. Children who can wear adult seat belts should be over 145 cm in height, over 27 kg in weight, and at least 8 years old.


Is it safer for children to ride in the front or back seats of a car?

Frontal air bags are a standard feature of newer cars, but they are designed for average-sized adults. Children who sit in the front seat are 40% more likely to be injured than those who sit in the back seat, at least until they reach 13-15 years of age. Remember: Children younger than 13 years of age should sit in the back seats of a car.


Bike Safety

Cycling remains one of the most popular recreational activities among children. It has been reported that traumatic brain injuries account for two-thirds of all bicycle-related fatalities. According to statistics from the American Academy of Pediatrics, wearing a helmet can prevent 70%-90% of brain injuries and 65% of injuries to the upper part of the face.

Bike helmets offer tremendous protection in head-first falls at fairly high speeds. They’re also light in weight and well-ventilated for comfort. Parents can look into purchasing helmets for their children that are specifically for cycling or multisport helmets that meet safety standards for cycling.

Remember: Children should wear helmets when bicycling and when rollerblading, skating, skiing, or skateboarding.


Everyday Parenting Tips for Safety:

Empower Your Children by Teaching Them about Safety

1.     Point out safety signs in areas where children play and explain their importance.

2.     Encourage your children to wear proper safety equipment when engaging in sports. Make sure your children follow the safety regulations of sports facilities.

3.     Get your children into the habit of putting on a seatbelt every time they get into a car.

I hope we all enjoy this wonderful time of year by “springing” into the season’s activities…of course, as safely as possible.

For additional inquiries or to make an appointment with Dr. Hua, please contact the BJU Pediatrics Department at (10) 5927 7222.


By Wendy Hua, MD, Ph.D.

Pediatrician, Beijing United Family Hospital

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