Passenger safety week focuses on children

Brian Joss – Last year, 1576 children under the age of 14 died when they were passengers in cars: 157 more than in 2017.

However, most of these deaths could have been prevented if child restraints or seat belts were used.

Although the RTMC data does not discern between public and private transport, Wheel Well, an NGO that focuses on road safety for children, believes that the death rate increase is because children using public transport, especially school transport, are not as well protected as children in the private sector.

During Child Passenger Safety Awareness Week from today (Monday September 15 to Sunday September 22), Wheel Well will highlight the plight of children as passengers. “Children do not drive vehicles, we do. It is up to us to keep them safe,” said founder Peggy Mars

The figures tell the story: it’s a sad tale

“The National Road Traffic Act states clearly that children under the age of  three must be in a child restraint. Children over three and under 14 or 1.5m tall, must be in a car seat if one is available. If no car seat is available, the children must be secured in a seat belt. The Act also states that the driver is responsible for the safety of all the passengers. It is a concern that transport for reward is excluded from this regulation. An even bigger concern is that the loading of children in vehicles has not yet been addressed, according to Ms Mars.

For the purposes of loading, children under three do not count, two children between the age of three and six count as one person and three  children between six and 14 count as two people.  

 Seat belts and car seats are designed to prevent death and reduce injuries to a treatable level by doing 3 things: prevent a person, or child,  from being flung out of the vehicle; prevent a person, or child, from slamming into the interior of the vehicle or other occupants; and of the vehicles; 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 smaller children .

A child is ready to ride with a seat belt only when they can say yes to these five questions:

  1. Can you sit with your back against the backrest of the vehicle?
  2. Can your knees bend over the front of the seat?
  3. Does the shoulder belt rest on the middle of your shoulder?
  4. Does the lap belt fit low over the top of your legs?
  5. Can you sit like this for the whole ride?

Wheel Well, through the Car Seats for Kids campaign and support from the community, has made it possible that over 8 500 children benefited from car seats, used and new. You can donate your used car seats to Wheel Well and can be dropped off at any InspectaCar or Renault dealership and SkyNet branches.

Phone Ms Mars on 072 385 7121 or email: peggie@wheelwell.org.za or visit www.wheelwell.org.za to find out more.

CAPTION: Five point test: check if you’re big enough for a seat belt.

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