Strap your toddler in a car seat, or else

2015-06-11 06:00

A NEW law came into place at the beginning of May, stating that all children under the age of three must be strapped into car seats.

Motorists who don’t strap toddlers in can expect to be fined.

Emergency services and paramedic have welcomed the amendment to the National Road Traffic Act.

“As paramedics dealing with injured children are one of the most heartbreaking parts of our job,” said Belinda Catchpole, spokesperson for KwaZulu Private Ambulance.

“We often have to tell parents that their child did not survive a motor vehicle accident,” she added.

Catchpole said in many cases, the child alighted through the car’s windscreen, a fatality which she says could be avoided had the child been strapped in.

“I attended a head-on collision a few years ago where all the adults in both vehicles were seriously injured. Two of the patients were declared dead on the scene, but the two-year-old girl who was in her car seat was not injured. I believe that her car seat saved her life,” said Catchpole.

She added that an important tip to remember is, if your vehicle has air bags, be sure to put the car seat in the back. “The force of the air-bag deploying could cause serious injury to your child,” she said.

Robert McKenzie of KZN EMS said the emergency service fully supports this law.

“We have seen the fatal results of what happens when children are not secured during a crash. We plead with divers to ensure that all occupants of a vehicle are buckled up,” he said.

“The main reason for child seats, is the child’s safety.

The forces involved during a crash are massive and devastating,” he added.

McKenzie explained that these forces­ act differently on children, which have several anatomic and physiological differences, when compared to adults.

“It is a misconception that an adult would be able to hold onto a child in a crash and even if they did manage to hold onto the child their arms wouldn’t provide adequate protection for the child,” he said.

He said children have larger heads and certain organs in proportion to their body size when compared to adults. Their muscoskeletal system is still developing and their bones are softer, this allows forces from the crash to be easier transmitted to the body’s vital organs.

“A child’s smaller size also allows them to be thrown around inside the vehicle easier during a crash,” said McKenzie.

Arrive Alive statistics show that road accidents, including those involving pedestrians, are the leading cause of death for children under the age of five in South Africa.

But nationally, only 19% of drivers, 49,9% of front passengers and 92,4% of back-seat passengers were found to be wearing seat belts (at road blocks).


The child seat, regardless of the type, protects the child in the following ways:

•It keeps the child secured in the car and prevents them from being flying around in the car. We often see children who have been airborne in the vehicle and they have then sustained further injuries when they then collide with structures inside the car, like the windscreen and dash board. The seat also prevents the child from being ejected from the vehicle.

•The multi-point straps distribute the force of the crash over a greater area and head rest and sides of the seats also provide physical protection to the child.

•It’s vital that the correct size and type of seat is used for the child’s age, that the seat is secured with the cars seat belt and that the stapes over the child are the correct tightness

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