Child seats long overdue everywhere
KZN should follow Western Cape’s example
CAPE TOWN — The Western Cape government last week proposed to make car seats for children mandatory in all cars driving in that province.
This would include visitors from KZN, driving either on their own or in rental cars.
Emma Thelwell for News24 found out why parents need policing. Overall, the statistics are grim.
Road trauma kills more than 17 000 people in South Africa every year — and for every death, four people are seriously injured, with paralysis, brain damage, severe burns and dismemberment common.
But according to the Western Cape government, it is children that are “bearing much of the brunt of the carnage”.
Hector Eliott, chief director for road safety coordination at the Department of Transport and Public Works for the Western Cape government, told News24 that though it is the law in South Africa to wear seatbelts, for children under the age of three there is no legislation.
Eliott said: “The Western Cape government is extremely concerned about this and is in the process of trying to change the legislation.”
HOW DOES SOUTH AFRICA MEASURE UP?
The National Road Traffic Act has no specific regulations covering children under the age of three, and no rules against children above the age of three sitting in the front seat.
Yet statistics show that road fatalities are the single greatest cause of death in children under the age of 12, and, according to the MRC, most of them were not buckled up.
In 2010, the MRC found that nine out of 10 back-seat passengers (including children) were not properly restrained.
Across the country, just 59% of drivers bother to wear seatbelts, according to the WHO.
Meanwhile Eliott said that further research in the Western Cape showed that just 10-15% of front-seat passengers belt up, while the number of those in the back seat who wear seatbelts is “negligible”.
Yet it is passengers, not drivers, who are more likely to be killed in an accident on our roads.
The highest number of road accident fatalities is among passengers — who accounted for 37% of all road deaths in 2009/10, according to figures from the Road Traffic Management Corporation (RTMC).
The figures show that pedestrians accounted for 34% of deaths, while drivers themselves made up 29% of fatalities during the period.
EXPENSE NO LONGER AN EXCUSE
In KwaZulu-Natal, there is as yet no such plans from Public Transport’s Policy and Planning division. One of the reasons why parents are still allowed to transport their children without any protection was the high cost of car seats.
But in an article published last year, the president of Childsafe and head of trauma at the Red Cross War Memorial Children’s Hospital, Professor Sebastian van As said this is no longer an excuse. “For 20 years there has been no seatbelt law for children under the age of three. It was an indictment of our country, and was probably done for people who could not afford to buy child safety seats. But now, with the cost of petrol being what it is, people who can afford to put petrol in the car can afford a child safety seat, even a second-hand one.”
BUYING A USED BABY SEAT
Claire Cobbledick, head of marketing for Gumtree South Africa, says that second-hand car seats are a more affordable alternative to buying a new seat but warns that they have to meet certain safety guidelines.
There are currently over a thousand used car seats for sale on the classifieds platform. “The cost of a used car averages at about R300 to R500, but there are also pricier car seats. Typically, these are multi-functional and can double as feeding chairs and such.”
Cobbledick advises buying seats not older than five years old. “Safety measures improve all the time and some seats may actually have been recalled. Sometimes you will find expiration dates stamped on the seats. Do your research to determine if a seat has been recalled.”
HOW EFFECTIVE ARE CAR SEATS?
Research in the U.S. by the Centre for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has found that car seat use reduces the risk of death among babies by 71% and for toddlers under four by 54%.
Booster seats cut the risk of serious injury by 45% for children aged between four and eight years compared to seatbelt use alone, the CDC claims. For drivers and front-seat passengers, wearing a seatbelt halves the risk of fatal injury and cuts the risk by up to 75% for back-seat passengers, according to the World Health Organisation (WHO).
PROFESSOR SEBASTIAN VAN AS President of Childsafe People who can afford to put petrol in the car can afford a child safety seat, even a secondhand one
The right thing to do: Strap in your baby, because accidents do happen.