How often have you been driving on the road and seen children in cars without seatbelts on? It’s no wonder that South African statistics show that more children die in car accidents than any other kind of accident in this country.
WHO (World Health Organisation) says that mortality rates in car accidents for South African children aged 0–4 and boys aged 5–14 is twice the global rate. Of the total car accident fatalities recorded in 2009, children 0-19 years made up 18.5 % of the total (2547 deaths).
“Worldwide, road traffic injuries are responsible for the highest injury mortality,” says Robyn Farrell, managing director of 1st for Women Insurance Brokers, “But in South Africa, it’s simply socking that the road traffic fatality rate (39.7 per 100 000) is higher than for any WHO region and almost double the global average.”
Farrell continues, “According to UNICEF, road accidents are the leading cause of death in children under five years old in South Africa, after medical problems, and as a mother, I find this very frightening.”
According to the RTMC (Road Traffic Management Corporation), we have more than 700 000 crashes a year with three children dying a day on our roads. The shocking truth is that in our country, a child is twenty times more likely to die on our roads then anywhere else in the world.
There are a number of reasons why our roads are so dangerous. They include: poor road infrastructure, poor enforcement of traffic laws, untrained drivers, road rage, aggressive driving, non compliance of traffic laws, and not buckling up children safely.
“A study conducted in 2010 by AA and BP Ultimate Research stated that 76% of South African drivers break the law each day on the roads,” says Farrell.
Alcohol misuse appears to be a major contributor. According to the AA, one in 15 drivers at night are drunk. “During the festive season, which has already begun, drivers and pedestrians need to be even more aware and careful on the road,” warns Farrell.
Seatbelt usage will automatically save 30% of lives in a crash, according to the RTMC.
Correctly using and fitting car seats, booster seats or seat belts can substantially reduce the risk of serious injury or death. It’s not even safe to leave your child unrestrained in the car, even for short distances—most car accidents occur close to home.
“Always buy the safest car seat that you can afford that will protect your child best in a collision, “says Farrell, “also make sure that the seat belt is not twisted or that your child has managed to take it off.”
From birth to 9 months (0-10kg), the seat must face rearwards and be secured with a seatbelt. At 9 months, the seat can face forwards but always follow the instructions of fitting the seat correctly. Booster seats (2-10 years) can be secured with an adult safety belt in the back or the front seat.
Farrell asserts, “It’s also very important to set a good example by always wearing your own seat belt.”
Between 1st December 2010 and 8th January 2011, 1 221 fatal crashes occurred on our roads, resulting in 1 551 fatalities. According to reports, the major contributory factors to festive season fatal crashes included: speeding; overtaking when not safe; fatigue, overloading and tyre burst.
“Try and avoid these pitfalls by being aware,” says Farrell, “these are costly but avoidable mistakes.”
Too many children die in car accidents as a result of not being strapped in. There is something else you can do to help save the lives of children on our roads concludes Farrell, “Next time, you see someone driving around with their children not in a car seat or safely buckled up, call 0861 400-800 with the car’s license plate, the date and place you saw it occur and the RTMC will send them a warning letter. It could save a child’s life.”