Thousands of commuters take to the highways as they travel home to spend time with their loved ones in the holiday season. There are currently close to 11 million vehicles on South African roads and according to the International Transport Forum 2017 Road Safety Report, South Africa ranks as the worst out of 41 surveyed countries when it came to the number of road deaths.
More alarmingly, the Medical Research Council reports that passenger fatalities in children are the 4th leading cause of unnatural deaths in South Africa. And this statistic doesn’t take into account the number of youngsters that are injured or left with lifelong disabilities as a result of a motor vehicle accident.
In an attempt to reduce fatalities on the roads, REG 213 (6A) was instituted into South African law on the 30th April 2015. The essence of this law is that it is illegal to travel in a car with a child under three years’ old that is not strapped into an approved car seat. It also states that all children under twelve years and younger should preferably travel in the back seat, buckled up.
Why young children can’t wear seatbelts
A child’s body has very different dimensions to that of an adult. Children are shorter, have a relatively larger head and they have smaller hipbones. This means that when a child wears and adult’s seatbelt, the belt typically lies over the abdomen rather than the hips. An adult seatbelt also typically crosses a child’s face or neck, which can cause severe neck and head injuries, bruising, tears and perforations of the intestines should the child be involved in an accident. These injuries are so commonly associated with adult seat belts that doctors have come up with the phrase ‘seatbelt syndrome’.
Different types of car seats
Car safety seats reduce the risk of death in passenger cars by 71% for infants and 54% for toddlers. The safest way for children to travel in cars is in an approved car safety seat or seat belt that is right for their weight and size. It is also important to follow the manufacturer’s instructions on how to fit the seat.
Birth to 9 months up to 10 kg: Babies must be in a rear-facing car seat at all times and be secured with a 3-point adult seat belt.
Birth to 5 years up to 18 kg: Infants must be kept in car seats facing the rear until he or she is greater than 10 kg or 9 months old. After this, the seat can be turned around to face the front of the car.
Approx 2 – 10 years: Booster safety seats are light to carry and work with a 3-point adult safety belt.
Approx 3 to 10 years 15 – 36 kg: Booster cushions are used with a 3-point adult safety belt. The seat correctly positions the belt over the child’s body and makes it easier for him or her to see out of the car.