Tragically, road traffic crashes in South Africa are responsible for the deaths of hundreds of children every year. You may think it will never happen to you, but you can’t control if other drivers on the roads are driving recklessly, have been drinking, or are distracted by their cellphones.
With this in mind, it’s vital that you think carefully about the safety of your family in your vehicle each and every time you get into the car – no matter how far your journey may be.
Here are some things to consider:
- Make sure you’ve installed child lock on car doors and windows. Little people love nothing more than pushing buttons and pulling levers, as well as opening and closing windows.
- You may remember our parents using a towel shoved over the window to block out the sun, but nowadays things have got a bit more sophisticated. There are a variety of sun shields that you can find to fit your car windows, and these will allow your kids to see out, protect them from those harsh sun rays and also allow the driver to safely check their blind spots. Also, ensure you always have enough liquids for the family to drink when it’s very hot and you’re driving long distances.
- Check toys and other loose items in your car. You may ask what harm a water bottle or a large toy can do – but when you’re involved in an accident, these items can actually become dangerous projectile items. This is because “crash force dynamics turn everything into a weapon,” according to information provided by national car seat awareness initiative #CarseatFullstop. Use the glove compartment to store smaller items and put things you don’t need in the boot, or remove them from your car completely.
- It’s illegal to travel in a car with a child under three who is not in an approved car seat, yet over 90% of children on South African roads still travel without being strapped in. Mandy Lee Miller from #CarseatFullstopsays that five children die on our roads every day. “Car passenger deaths are the fourth leading cause of death in children in South Africa, and the leading cause of accidental death in children aged five to 15,” she adds. However, this can be prevented as car seats reduce the risk of death by 71% for babies, and 54% for kids.
A word on car seats and booster seats
- Babies should be in rear-facing car seats until they are at least one year old, but as long as possible.
- Toddlers should be in a convertible child seat (rear-facing) until they outgrow the weight and height recommendations of the seat. They should remain rear-facing until three or four years old.
- Children should then be in booster seats until they are between the ages of 10 and 12.
- Older kids should still only travel in the back seat and the three-point safety belt should be positioned low on the pelvis and across the upper chest between the neck and shoulder (not over the neck).