SA’s stupidest parents


I won’t judge you for a parenting choice like choosing not to breastfeed or opting to be a stay-at-home mom (or dad), but there’s one issue where the “no judgies” rule deserves to die, instead of your child. Every day, without fail, I see parents cruising along the road with their kids standing on the front seat, the back seat, in between the front seats or in the back of the bakkie. I get a shiver down my spine every time I see it, and a fair amount of anger. 2 400 dead kids-per-year angry. That's 200 dead children per month.

Read: 5 moving stories of life, death and seat belts

Are you stupid?

The stats are horrifying. Unfortunately, the exact up-to-date figures don’t exist for a number of reasons, but take a look at these figures, used purely as a general indication, from the Road Traffic Report of March 2011:

13 802 fatalities were recorded, of which:

•    17.5% of road user fatalities were under the age of 19
•    In 54% of fatal accidents, the tyres burst just before the crash
•    In 40% of the accidents, speeding was a factor
•    Fatalities according to vehicle type included 2 706 out of 13 802 fatal accidents involving bakkies and 1 311 involving minibuses. 5 200 of the 13 802 fatalities were passengers.

So, in effect, while bad tyres and speeding both contributed to the death toll, wearing seat belts could still have prevented some of the fatalities. A study conducted in the US found that lap/shoulder belts, when used properly, reduce the risk of fatal injury to front seat passenger car occupants by 45 percent and the risk of moderate-to-critical injury by 50 percent. For bakkie occupants, seat belts reduce the risk of fatal injury by 60 percent and moderate-to-critical injury by 65 percent. [Report: Fatal Reduction by Safety Belts]

This report only covers front seat safety belts and their effectiveness in the event of an accident and does not look at cases where children under the age of five are in the front seat. Even with this in mind, a risk reduction of 45 percent is dramatic evidence that this simple safety measure can be extremely helpful.

When holding on doesn’t help

Bakkies aren’t just used for work purposes. For many families, the bakkie is the family car. Unless you have a double cab, however, this presents a problem when you need to transport multiple people. A common sight on SA roads is a bakkie with several kids in the back. Some children may even be standing up behind the cab while it travels at speed.

I can’t quite fathom the logic behind this. One sudden stop and someone standing in the back of a bakkie is going to go one way. Even seated (and yes, even under a canopy), there’s no protection in the event of an accident.

Traffic cops aren’t just out to make money: they’re there to ensure our safety on the roads. If you see one and he flags you over, is that the point that makes you tell your kids to put their seat belts on quickly so that you don’t get a fine? Guilt should not trump responsibility.

Being shamed by other drivers that take pictures of your bad driving habits and share them on social media? That's probably not going to help. [A side note to people that do this- never take pictures while operating a car!]

It’s a habit you get into. Check your tyres. Wear your seat belt. Make sure your kids are wearing theirs before you drive off. Don't speed.

I’ll leave you with that same thought:

Around 2 400 kids die every year on SA roads. That’s 200 per month, around the same amount of kids in a big high school grade. Picture an entire grade class being wiped out in one month, and you get the scale of the problem.

One dead child is a tragedy, more than two thousand, a catastrophe.

Car safety for toddlers

Child safety on the road

How to buy a car seat

Be responsible and buckle up your family

Do you know anyone saved by wearing a seat belt in an accident? Send us your comment to

For more family-related stories click here.

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