In a world where advancements in vehicle safety are constant, it’s disheartening to acknowledge that road traffic accidents still rank as the leading cause of fatalities among children under 10. Despite the law stipulating that every child under the age of 3 must be securely strapped into a car seat, a shocking 93% of motorists, taxi, and bus services in South Africa flout this crucial safety regulation. What’s more concerning is that this law isn’t effectively enforced by local and national authorities. The majority of injuries sustained in car accidents involving children result from a complete lack of any child safety restraint.
“Child Passenger Safety week runs internationally from the 17th to the 23rd of September, and we at Maxi-Cosi are determined to raise awareness about the importance of our children’s safety in motor vehicles in South Africa,” says Debbie Billson, Operations Director for Maxi-Cosi, the driving force behind Child Passenger Safety Week in the country for the past 7 years. This year, their campaign theme is “Love Clicked In,” with a mission to educate and inform South African road users about the dangers of traveling with children who are not securely strapped into a car seat, emphasising the importance of choosing car seats that have undergone minimum crash testing. “Clicking our children into well-secured car seats needs to become a standard practice for all of us, regardless of the length of the car trip,” Billson asserts.
It’s vital to emphasise that holding a child in your arms provides no protection in the event of an accident. In a collision at a speed of 50 km/h, body weight is multiplied by approximately 30 times. For instance, a child weighing around 30 kg becomes a projectile weighing a ton. At the point of impact, it’s impossible for anyone to restrain them, and the force of impact is equivalent to falling from a three-story building. Shockingly, a recent study conducted by Arrive Alive found that seatbelt usage is significantly lower in Central Business Districts in South Africa, suggesting that road users mistakenly believe that seat belts are unimportant in low-speed environments. At the same time, the Red Cross Memorial Hospital treats an average of 20 child passengers every month due to car accidents.
While children under the age of 3 are legally required to be securely restrained in a car seat, standard seat belts in most cars are designed for adult passengers 150cm and taller. This leaves children between the ages of 4 and 12 years old requiring additional support in the form of a booster seat. “Children under 150cm are not safe just being secured by a seat belt; they are physically not developed enough to be secure,” explains Billson. “The lower belt doesn’t sit on their hips as it does with adults, instead ending up around their abdomen, which can result in fatal internal injuries in the event of a crash. The upper section of the belt rests dangerously across their neck rather than on their shoulder, which can easily lead to a child’s neck being broken during an accident. A simple booster seat can prevent unnecessary injuries and deaths.”
South African consumers are fortunate to have a wide selection of well-tested, reasonably priced car seat options, making it inexcusable not to use one. “The average car seat costs only 1% of the value of most cars in SA,” Billson emphasizes. “Over the average lifespan of a car seat, it amounts to less than R2 per day to ensure your child’s safety. Show your child the ultimate form of love by clicking them into a secure car seat that will keep them safe on the road.”
Busting Myths and Boosting Facts About Child Passenger Safety:
Myth 1 – It’s safe to place a car seat in the front passenger seat.
Fact: The backseat is the safest place for a car seat, and it’s recommended to avoid placing car seats in the front passenger seat, especially if it has an active airbag.
Myth 2 – I don’t need to buckle my child if we are only going a short distance!
Fact: Car crashes can happen anywhere, even on short trips. It’s essential to always buckle up your child in an appropriate car seat, regardless of the distance.
Myth 3 – Once my child reaches a certain age, they can use an adult seat belt.
Fact: Children should use a booster seat until they can properly fit in an adult seat belt, typically when they reach a height of 150cm and are between 4 and 12 years old.
Myth 4 – One car seat fits all age groups.
Fact: It’s important to select a car seat based on your child’s current height and weight to ensure proper safety and protection in case of a collision.
Myth 5 – The height of the safety harness doesn’t matter.
Fact: Adjust the safety harness to the correct height, which should be at shoulder level, to prevent children from unbuckling themselves or suffering from head flops during a collision.
Myth 6 – Rear-facing car seats are only for infants.
Fact: Rear-facing car seats are safest for babies and toddlers up to at least 15 months old. The extended rear-facing position helps distribute collision forces and reduces the risk of neck injuries.
Myth 7 – Children can wear thick coats in car seats.
Fact: Bulky coats can compromise the effectiveness of the harness. Instead, use the coat as a blanket over the harness to keep your child warm.
For more information about Child Passenger Safety Week, please visit https://www.facebook.com/childpassengersafetyweek/