We have just celebrated the many roles moms play in our lives with Mother’s Day on May 8. It was a chance to spoil moms and show our appreciation for everything they do for the family. Children may not realise it but one of the most daunting jobs a mom has is to keep her children safe.
Motor Industry Workshop Association (MIWA) chairperson Dewald Ranft says this definitely includes safety while travelling in a car.
He cites an AA study – the 2022 Child Restraint System Study released on April 26 – which reveals that a third of children remain unrestrained in proper child restraint systems (CRS) in vehicles in South Africa.
The study is based on observational research conducted earlier this year, reviewing the CRS usage of 1 000 children at various shopping malls in Gauteng.
One finding is that women use CRS for children more frequently than men, with a possible explanation by the AA that this “… could be related to men and women having different levels of concern, driving behaviours and risk perceptions”.
The AA also notes that CRS had been shown to reduce injuries in children aged five to nine by 52%, while safety belts reduce injuries by only 19%.
Ranft reiterates that South African legislation currently prescribes that children aged three years or younger must be secured in a proper car seat.
The logic, he says, is simple – it saves small children’s lives.
“Did you know that if you have a collision at 50kph with a baby on your lap, the child will be hurled through the windscreen with an impact similar to that of falling from a three-storey window or being hit by a 3.5 tonne elephant?
“Alternatively the child will be crushed against the dashboard by the force of your body weight which is 30 times heavier at the moment of impact (in other words 45kg becomes 1 360kg).
“It is essential when travelling with young children to ensure that car seats are properly secured. Statistics show that up to 70% of car seats are incorrectly installed. Parents must also ensure that the seat is the age-appropriate size and kids who are big enough to use the normal seat belts are buckled in at all times,” says Ranft.
Another critical factor in CRS usage is law enforcement, according to the AA. The penalty for non-compliance is R250 in South Africa, while in other countries it can be more than R9 000.
MIWA, like the AA, urges that a similar clear message must be sent locally if we are to curb the deaths of children in car accidents.
Although MIWA, which is a proud association of the Retail Motor Industry Association (RMI), would like to see much stiffer penalties meted out in South Africa, Ranft says what could happen to an unrestrained child in the event of an accident, should be deterrent enough for parents.
“We urge moms, dads, family members, transport operators and caregivers to take this issue seriously. New car seats are expensive but there are many good used car seats available for less or free from organisations these have been donated to by parents who no longer need them.
“If you are in doubt about whether a car seat is appropriate for your vehicle speak to an accredited workshop for advice and assistance.
“The seat must be fit the vehicle and be fitted into the vehicle correctly. Don’t let any factors get in the way of putting your child’s safety first,” Ranft concludes.