Child seats long over­due ev­ery­where

KZN should fol­low West­ern Cape’s ex­am­ple

The Witness - Wheels - - FRONT PAGE - AL­WYN VILJOEN

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

PHOTO: AMA­ZON.COM

The right thing to do: Strap in your baby, be­cause ac­ci­dents do hap­pen.

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