In 2018, 1 576 children under the age of 14 years died as passengers in vehicles – 157 more than in 2017. Most of these deaths could have been prevented if car seats or seat belts had been used. Road Traffic Management Corporation (RTMC) data does not discern between public and private transport, but it’s Wheel Well’s opinion that the increase in deaths can be attributed to the fact that children in public transport, specifically school transport, do not enjoy the same safety rights as children in private transport and are not protected.
What the law says
According to The National Road Traffic Act, children under the age of 3 years must be in a car seat. Children older than three or younger than 14 years or 1.5m tall, must be in a car seat if one is available. If no car seat is available, they must sit on a vehicle seat secured in a seat belt. The Act also states that the driver is responsible for the safety of all the passengers.
This doesn’t always happen, especially when it comes to public transport. It is concerning that transport for reward is excluded from this regulation. An even bigger concern is that the loading of children in vehicles has not been addressed as yet either. For the purposes of counting persons for loading, children under 3 years do not count. Two children between the ages of 3 and 6 years counts as one person and three children between 6 years and 14 years counts as two persons.
Vehicle seat belts and car seats are designed to prevent death and reduce injuries to a treatable level by doing three things:
- Prevent a person, or child, from being flung out of the vehicle.
- Prevent a person, or child, from bashing into the interior of the vehicle and other occupants of the vehicle.
- Seat belts and car seats help the body “ride down” the forces of a crash.
Children who are not restrained, typically die from blunt force trauma to the head or multiple blunt force trauma to the body. Child restraints are specifically designed to prevent these injuries and protect the vulnerable head, spine and vital organs. Seat belts are designed for an adult of at least 1.5m tall and cannot provide the same safety benefits for children that are smaller in stature.
A child is ready to ride with a seat belt only when they can say yes to all of these 5 questions:
- Can you sit with your back against the backrest of the vehicle?
- Can your knees bend over the front of the seat?
- Does the shoulder belt rest on the middle of your shoulder?
- Does the lap belt fit low over the top of your legs?
- Can you sit like this for the whole ride?
Donate your old car seats
Wheel Well, through the Car Seats for Kids campaign has made it possible for over 8 500 children to benefit from both used and new car seats. You can assist Wheel Well in keeping our children safe by donating your used car seats to them. Car seats can be dropped off at any InspectaCar or Renault dealership and SkyNet branches nationwide.
About Wheel Well
Wheel Well is the only NGO that focuses exclusively on children in road safety and was founded in 2012 by Peggie. Wheel Well strives to be the most visible and audible change agents for children as passengers in private and public transport as well as for children as paedestrians. Visit www.wheelwell.org.za for more information.
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