Volvo Cars has produced a manual describing how pregnant women and children of different ages can travel as safely as possible in cars. Available soon from dealers, its findings are based on the company's studies of 36,000 road accidents involving more than 60,000 people, says spokeswoman Maria Bohlin. The manual shows that some motorists forget that children need special protection.
A child's head is big and heavy relative to its body, says Lotta Jakobsson, child safety specialist at the Volvo Cars Safety Centre. The head of a nine-month-old baby accounts for 25 per cent of its body weight, compared with 6 per cent in an adult, she says. A child's neck and neck vertebrae aren't fully developed and very different from those of an adult.
In a frontal collision, the head of a forward-facing occupant is thrown forward with violent force, Volvo says. An adult's neck can withstand this stress relatively well, but that of a small child can't. Since frontal collisions are the most common and usually the most violent, it's important that small children are seated facing the rear (left).
'[Volvo's] studies show clearly that rear-facing child seats offer a very high degree of protection,' says Jakobsson.
The marque advises parents not to face children forward until they've outgrown their rear-facing seat and have reached the age of three.
'By then, the body proportions have evened out and the neck has developed,' says Jakobsson. 'However, the child is still too small to use a safety belt alone and a child booster cushion should be used.' This ensures that the lap belt is in contact with the thighs, not against the child's stomach, thus protecting internal organs in a crash, the car-maker says.
Volvo recently introduced an integrated, two-stage child booster cushion in its new V70 and XC70. The lower level is suitable for children between 115cm and 140cm tall and the upper level is designed for those between 95cm and 120cm.
Mini fans strut their stuff
Bravo to the Hong Kong Mini Fan Club for packing about 70 of the little runabouts into Chater Road (above) and 22 good sports into a British Leyland Mini to raise funds for oldies on Easter Monday. The stuffing stunt won't count in the record books because the Mini didn't have a windscreen, and the Leipzig-based Rekord Klub Saxonia website (www.recordholders.org/en/list/carcram.html) says 39 people have already crammed into a Leyland Mini. But the Hong Kong Mini effort shows that Hong Kong packs hidden potential in the car-cramming arena.
World records in this field are rising as competition stiffens. In 2001, 14 English Smart fans (right) packed a ForTwo to crowd out their German counterparts' 13-strong crush. According to Rekord Klub Saxonia, there's even less room for manoeuvre, however, since 18 folk from Bad Abbach snatched the Smart squeeze record back for Germany in October 2002. The Germans' minimum age was 15, not the Britons' 18, however.
The Saxon site also says that 22 members of the Madrid-based Mini 10 Sport Club crammed into a BMW Mini on June 11 last year. This record seems vulnerable when we consider any Hong Kong granny can find ways of fitting 23 jockeys, ballet dancers and car-loving contortionists into the same space. Volunteers, please.