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The schools are out. Trailers are being packed and excited kids are hopping into cars for much-anticipated holidays. “Sadly, there are going to be fatalities on our roads this festive season many of which will include children simply because they were not strapped in,” says Jakkie Olivier, CEO of the Retail Motor Industry Organisation (RMI).
If a vehicle is involved in a collision at 50kph and a baby is sitting on an adult’s lap on the front seat, the child will be hurled through the windscreen with an impact similar to that of falling from a three-storey window. Alternatively, the child will be crushed against the dashboard by the force of the adult’s body weight which is 30 times heavier at the moment of impact i.e. 45kg becomes 1360kg.
“Please parents invest in car seats for your children and strap them in this festive season and every day after,” says Olivier.
The law supports the use of baby seats with the child restraint law, as published in the 22nd National Road Traffic Amendment. “Besides the threat of a fine, should a driver be caught with a child not buckled in, the reality of what can happen to a child in the event of an accident should motivate drivers to do the right thing,” he says.
The Medical Research Council (MRC) has reported that road traffic accidents are the leading cause of injury deaths among under-fives in South Africa, with most of these a result of children not in car seats. Over and above that the majority of brain damage cases in children under the age of five are directly related to injuries sustained during car accidents.
“There are options for parents that feel they can’t afford car seats. Revamped second hand car seats are available at reduced prices at several stores around the country. Wheel Well in Johannesburg, for example, offers this service using a donation system,” mentions Olivier.
“Please also make sure that the car seat you select is appropriate for your vehicle. If you are unsure don’t hesitate to contact an RMI-member dealership or independent workshop. It is very important that the seat fits and is fitted correctly into the vehicle. Don’t let any factors come in the way of putting your child’s safety first. Let’s make sure they reach their holiday destination safely,” he concludes.
Keeping Your Newborn Safe As You Drive
When you become a parent, keeping your newborn safe in the car becomes a huge priority says Sally Writes. Despite this, less than 7% of South African drivers sit their child under three-years-old in a car seat — even though it’s a legal requirement, the Automotive Business Review reports. Not only is it important to make sure your little one is safe and secure on the journey, but you also have to minimize distractions that take your attention away from the road. Taking the right precautions to keep your child safe will minimize risk of accidents and ensure you both arrive safely at your destination with minimum stress.
Install a car seat
Installing a car seat can be difficult, so ask the salesperson how to install it correctly upon purchase. Also check your vehicle for ISOFIX compatibility; it’s the international standard for car seat attachment points designed to minimize human error. So, if your car is ISOFIX compatible, this car seat is the safest option. When installing your car seat, it should fit snugly with only about an inch wiggle room. Once your child is in the seat, tighten the straps so there’s no excess slack to pinch. It’s also safer to have your child riding rear-facing until they’re age two. Install a backseat mirror so you can easily see what’s going on without having to pull over for peace of mind.
It’s safer to pull over to take care of your baby rather than doing so while driving. Drive to a safe area, such as, a parking lot or side street, and park there to give your baby the necessary attention. Unless you have another adult in the back seat, avoid having toys, food, or bottles loose in the car. These items are potential choking hazards and dangerous projectiles. Additionally, 25% of car accidents are caused by using cell phones while driving. So, keep your phone in your bag or out of reach, so you’re not distracted by notifications.
Plan your journeys
Always plan your journeys in good time. If parking is going to be a struggle, leave earlier to get a good spot or park further away with time to walk to your destination. You therefore won’t be tempted to speed if you’re running behind. Remember being a few minutes late to an appointment is a better alternative to risking an accident.
Finally, don’t leave your child in the car unattended — even if you’ll just be gone for a minute. Babies can’t regulate body temperature like adults can. In a car, they could overheat or freeze in a matter of minutes. Thoughtful planning and taking the right precautions will ensure a safe and happy car journey for you and your baby.