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Despite the risks, there are still too many children travelling unrestrained on our roads. Parents and children need to buckle up and arrive alive.

Charné van der Berg, Netcare 911’s critical care operations manager, discusses the importance of car seats.

“When you see what we as paramedics have to deal with at accident scenes, you’ll understand the importance of wearing a seatbelt and securing your child safely in a child seat. It is especially chilling to arrive at a scene and find a mother cradling her child after he’s been ejected through the windscreen. As a parent, I can never emphasise the importance of car seats enough. We need to buckle up so that children arrive alive.,” she urges.

The numbers

In 2021, 7% of South Africa’s road accident passenger fatalities were children under 14, as noted by the Road Traffic Management Corporation. According to a recent Statistics South Africa survey on “Causes of Death and Mortality”, road accidents accounted for 4.2% of non-natural deaths for babies under a year old, and 15.5% of these deaths for children aged one to 14 years old.

From car seat to booster seat

For children under the age of two, Arrive Alive recommends a rear-facing car seat on the front passenger seat. When children get older, they can move to a front facing car seat on the back seat. Once children outgrow a car seat, they are still too small for conventional seat belts to be optimally effective and need to be secured in a booster seat.

Accidents happen when they are least expected. Even a quick trip down the road can have fatal consequences if a child is not safely restrained. According to Arrive Alive, properly installed child safety seats can reduce the need for hospitalisation among children younger than four years involved in traffic road accidents by 69% in road traffic accidents.

It is not safe for a child to sit on an adult’s lap while travelling in a car. The adult may be safely strapped in with a safety belt, but the force of a collision is so immense that the child isn’t protected at all. People often think they would be able to hold onto their child in the event of an accident, but in reality it’s not possible. So rather buckle up and arrive alive.

Although toddlers have a will of their own, and can be especially difficult when being strapped in, as the responsible adult it is up to you to make it a routine part of every car trip. It takes two minutes, and it can save a lifetime of regret.”

For more safety tips, read keeping safe at the mall and tips to keep your children safe.

Seven tips for car-seat safety:

  1. Do your research when buying a car seat. Visit the Automobile Association’s website for the relevant specifications and regulations to ensure your choice of car seat is compliant. Make sure your car seat or booster seat is quality assured by the South African Bureau of Standards (SABS).
  2. Install child safety restraints correctly according to the seat manufacturer’s instructions and check these against your car’s owner’s manual.
  3. Ensure your child’s car seat is right for their age and weight. Replace the seat as needed when your child outgrows their car seat.
  4. Make sure to check all the clips and buckles every time you travel with your child.
  5. Ensure straps are tight fitting to be effective in an accident.
  6. Be consistent. Your child or infant has to be properly secured every time.
  7. Avoid dressing your child in bulky clothing. This can affect the fit of child restraints and make them less effective in an emergency. Rather, dress your child in layers of thinner fabric or put a blanket over the restraints once your child is safely buckled in.

Even if you are the most cautious driver, there are so many variables that contribute to accidents. Car seats and seat belts used correctly save lives every day. Unfortunately not enough people are using them.

Unequivocally, these car safety devices make a big difference to survival. They help mininise injuries in motor vehicle accidents. Set a good example. Always make sure everyone is strapped in safely. Never take a chance when it comes to car seats or seat belts.

Remember, buckle up, arrive alive.