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#03-04A LTH Building

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Mon-Fri, 9:30am-4:30pm

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Taxi Baby founder, Elise Mawson educates us on car seat safety

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Asian Parent Magazine, March 2016

​Many mums spend a lot of time scouting for the perfect car seat for their little ones. Unfortunately, even after a good purchase, installation and use of the car seat is done incorrectly. This defeats the purpose for which the car seat is bought.
Buying a car seat is a fairly expensive decision. Many mothers spend a lot of time scouting for the perfect one for their little ones. Unfortunately, even after a good buy, installation and use of the car seat is often done incorrectly.

This defeats the purpose for which it was bought’, says Elise Mawson, founder Taxi Baby, a company that offers car and air travel safety solutions to young parents.

Mawson worked in a mining company prior to launching Taxi Baby, about eight months ago. Her penchant for safety is not unfounded, since safety was a critical part of her work environment. Taxi Baby was launched when Mawson could not find locking clips for her baby’s car seat in Singapore.

This surprised Mawson, who hails from Australia where awareness levels on car safety solutions, is very high. Taxi Baby is her way of educating young people in Singapore, on car safety.

She also has an e-shop where parents can buy car and air safety products. Mawson is an Australian-certified child passenger safety technician. She’s taking huge efforts to spread the word on travel safety among mums through various groups in the city.

She is also in talks with taxi companies to launch a service similar to uberFamily where taxis come fitted with car seats. We meet one morning at a café in Cluny Court, where Mawson says some eye-opening tips on traveling safely with a baby. (Edited excerpts)

What are the common mistakes parents make when purchasing a car seat?

#1 ‘Promoting’ their child to the next stage child restraint either (i) before their child has outgrown their current stage seat, or (ii) long before their child is ready for that particular stage
“Each time you ‘step up’ a level to the next stage of car seat (progressing from a rear-facing infant seat to a forward facing toddler seat) you ‘step down’ a level of safety. For example, rear-facing seats are five times safer for young children than forward facing seats.

Sometimes parents move their child from a rear facing infant seat to a forward facing toddler seat (even though the child still has room to grow in the infant seat) because, for instance, they think the child will be happier facing forward, or it’s easier to get the child in and out of the car seat.”

Furthermore, parents often opt to use a booster seat or booster seat alternative (which are designed for children over 4years of age) as soon as their child outgrows their infant capsule (so they skip the toddler seat stage altogether) because booster seats (eg. Trunki Boostapak or RideSafer vests) aren’t as cumbersome as car seats to carry around.

I like to compare this to sending your primary school-aged child to secondary school simply because the high school is more convenient for you to drop off your child,” says Mawson.

#2 Not double-checking what the retail assistant tells them
Unfortunately good product safety knowledge is very rare among retail assistants in Singapore. “I’ve witnessed and heard of incredibly dangerous and misleading information being given to parents about the safety of their children from ill-informed retail assistants, ” says Mawson. Do your research before you purchase your car seat to make sure it’s the right solution for your family.

#3 Not thinking long-term
“Most parents will purchase a rear facing infant carrier, which ‘clicks’ onto their stroller. However, while these seats have unrivalled convenience, you outgrow them rather quickly (12-18 months on average). Instead, parents could choose a lightweight convertible car seat, which will last them from birth to 18kg (which will work till kids are 4-6 years old).” Since car seats cost on average $400, skipping the infant carrier, in lieu of a convertible seat is a great way to save money.

What are the 5 precautions to take when fixing a car seat into a taxi?

#1 Before you leave home, ensure your seat is set up properly to fit your child
“For rear facing seats, the harness straps should be at or below the child’s shoulders. However, for forward facing seats, the harness straps should be at or above the child’s shoulders.

Make sure your child has had a little wiggle before checking the position of the harness straps – kids will squirm and shift downward in their seat a bit and this can mean that straps you thought were below their shoulders, actually end up being above the shoulders.”

#2 Ensure your child is properly strapped into the harness
“The harness straps should pass over the middle of their shoulders. Often the shoulder pads, which come with the car seat make it more difficult to properly install your child, so it’s usually easier to remove them.

Tighten the harness straps so they’re very snug. You should not be able to pinch the harness strap – if you can, tighten it. If your seat has a chest clip (most US seats do), then it’s important to use it (as the seat has been crash tested this way) and to use it properly. The chest clip should be in line with your child’s armpits.”

#3 Check whether your seat requires a locking clip for installation
Most US (and Australian) seats require the vehicle seat belt to be permanently locked (as opposed to the normal operation of a seat belt which only locks in an emergency). This is very important to ensure that your child’s car seat will function properly to protect them in an accident.

Permanently locking a seat belt can be achieved in one of two ways: (i) if the vehicle has a ‘switchable retractor’, you can slowly pull the seat belt all the way out of the retractor and this will engage the locking mechanism – when this is engaged, the seat belt will only get shorter, helping you to get a very tightly installed car seat (to allow the seat belt to revert to normal mode, feed the belt all the way back into the retractor). Only the Toyota taxis (excluding the Toyota Prius) have switchable retractors in Singapore.

If your vehicle doesn’t have switchable retractors, then you’ll need to use a locking clip (available from taxibaby.sg).  While most European seats don’t mandate the use of a locked seat belt, it is usually safer to lock the belt.

#4 Remember toys can be dangerous projectiles
We often forget that in an accident, any unrestrained item will be flung around the cabin of the vehicle. While I absolutely love wooden toys, they can become fatal projectiles in an accident. Opt for soft toys such as fabric books, stuffed toys and even origami.

“Quiet books” are also a great option.

#5 Buckle up, mum
Just as unrestrained toys can injure your child in an accident, so can unrestrained passengers. To keep your child safe, make sure you wear your own seat belt.

Which are your favourite products for taxi travel with an infant?
“Taxi-friendly locking clip (from taxibaby.sg) – we searched all over the globe to find the most taxi-friendly locking clips and I’m so happy with the result! Made by a leading innovative child restraint manufacturer in Australia, these clips increase the factor of safety when used with most child restraints, are super easy to use, incredibly light and easy to carry around, and they’re amazingly versatile. You’ll be amazed at what this little red clip can do!”

Our favourite infant car seat is the Cybex Aton – it has more safety features than its more popular rival, the Maxi Cosi Cabriofix/Pebble, but it’s significantly cheaper and uses the exact same stroller adaptors. If you’d like to save nearly $400, and skip the infant capsule, the Cosco Scenera NEXT is the best value car seat around. Available from Amazon US, it will keep your precious bundle of joy rear facing from birth to 18kg (which will get most kids to 4-6 years old) and it connects to a Mountain Buggy Nano stroller beautifully.”

What advice can you share on air travel safety with babies?
“Given that travel among families in the region is so high, it is disappointing to see the misconceptions about air safety travel. The first pointer is to avoid using a baby carrier on an airplane, when the seat belt sign is illuminated. For one, in case there is a crash, the carrier fabric will naturally break. Or else, the parent’s chin will collide against the baby’s head causing severe damage.

An infant ‘loop’ seat belt is safer than strapping your child into a fabric baby carrier. This is because, in case of an accident, the baby shifts forward so the parent’s head doesn’t come in contact with the baby’s skull. Safest of all is taking car seats on board. If your child is below two years this would require you to purchase a kid ticket.

Alternatively, the Cares Harness is an excellent product to invest in for air travel, if you don’t want to bring your car seat onboard.”

Mawson’s Top Tips
  1. Use a car seat till a child is at least 4 years old, and a booster seat till he passes the five-step test, usually around 10-12 years old.
  2. Convenience should not override safety, so invest in a long-lasting lightweight car seat like Immi go, which folds into a bag, or the Cosco Scenera Next.
  3. If you have your own vehicle, get an expert to do your car seat installation
  4. If your car or taxi doesn’t have a seat belt that permanently locks (most Singapore taxis do not), use a locking clip for pre-crash stability of your child’s car seat.