If you don’t have a car in Singapore, being chauffeured around in taxis while you catch up on emails sounds ideal. But if you have a small kid in tow who has outgrown a Maxi-Cosi but is too small for an adult seatbelt, then what? How exactly are you supposed to get around safely?
- Use a baby carrier to attach your child to you, then wear a seatbelt yourself?
- Strap yourself into the seatbelt and hold your unbelted child tightly on your lap?
- Strap yourself and your toddler into the seatbelt together?
The Law in Singapore
Anyone below the height of 1.35m, rather than of a certain age, must be secured with an appropriate restraint, booster seat or adjustable seatbelt. Those 1.35m or taller will be required to wear a seatbelt, irrespective of age. Taxis are exempt from child safety seat requirements.
If you would have ticked any of the above, please think again – these are not safe options.
Advice and top buys
A portable booster seat, the Trunki Boostapak gets glowing user reviews. It doubles as a backpack, making it somewhat easier to carry although it is still fairly bulky to lug around. (And you know who will be the one left to carry it.)
After much research, I came across the Ride Safer Travel Vest from Safe Traffic System. It consists of a pink or blue padded vest which optimises the existing seatbelt system for a small child’s body. It basically secures the car seatbelt across the child’s chest and across the pelvis and thighs, preventing the belt from sliding up onto the stomach.
Officially, the minimum weight is 13.6kg and the minimum age for use is three years old; these are the requirements of most booster seats. The smallest crash-test dummies used to test the vest simulated a three-year-old child in the 50th percentile for weight and height, so my personal decision was to use this for my very stocky and tall toddler who weighed 11.8kg at around 18 months. This was based on the knowledge that he would only be using the vest for short trips of 15 minutes, and that he was physically able and happy to sit upright for the entire journey with an adult beside him.
There are various car seats which turn into a version of a stroller, such as the Sit’n’Stroll, (newborn to 18kg). It’s bulky and weighs 10kg, but it’s versatile – you can use it as a car seat, a booster seat, in planes and as a stroller. They are not available in Singapore, but you can buy them online from the Sit’n’Stroll Malaysia website and other online stores.
One of the least bulky safety devices, the Ride Safer Travel Vest weighs less than 500g and is easily portable.
It’s great for holidays, especially in taxis or when renting cars for short trips. Check the local child restraint laws first.
Unlike booster seats, which elevate the child, the Ride Safer Travel Vest allows him or her to sit directly on the car seat, which has a lower centre of gravity, making the head less vulnerable in a car crash.
Version 2 is “self-certified” by the Safe Traffic System to meet US Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard 213. Version 3 is not certified, as it cannot be tested with the lap-only belt, which is the test’s (some say outdated) requirement: this version must be used with a lap-shoulder belt. However, it has the same design as Version 2 except for lacking the tether.
Version 2 is more versatile than a booster seat as it can be used with a lap-shoulder belt or a lap-only belt if you buy the tether attachment; so it is handy for middle seats, which often don’t have shoulder belts.
The Ride Safer travel vest offers no side-impact protection; nor does a backless booster seat, however. Protection from side impact – for both children and adults – relies on vehicle technology such as the presence of side-impact airbags and the strength of the pillars in the frame of the car.
It takes a few extra minutes to install once you’re seated in the cab.
Put the vest on your child before you get into the cab to minimise installation time – it does take longer to buckle up than a regular seatbelt, as you need to thread the seatbelt through the clips. You may need to ask the taxi uncle to be patient before he zooms off.
While it’s not officially recommend by the manufacturer, if you’re in the grey zone between a Maxi-Cosi and the three-year minimum age for most safety devices, and if you choose to use this vest, it’s wise to have someone sit next to the child at all times to be sure that they stay in the correct, upright position.
The safest spot for your child is the middle seat, with a shoulder-lap belt. If there is only a lap belt in the centre seat, then a side seat with a shoulder-lap belt offers much better protection, even in side-impact crashes.
Now here’s the big question: Where can you get one? They’re not yet available in Singapore, but watch this space. Until they are, you can order directly from here; prices start from US$125. Delivery time to Singapore is seven to 10 business days and postage costs roughly US$40 if you choose USPS Priority Mail.