Is your child wearing a seatbelt? Few SA parents obey this law - AA

<B>BUCKLE UP:</B> If you're travelling with young children ensure they are buckled-up in  your car. <I>Image: iStock</I>
<B>BUCKLE UP:</B> If you're travelling with young children ensure they are buckled-up in your car. <I>Image: iStock</I>

UPDATE: Thank you to all of our readers for their emails. We've inlcuded your responses at the end of this article. 

Cape Town - Since the introduction of legislation that requires passengers under three years of age to be in a child seat, little has changed in the way many people transport children.

According to the Automobile Association (AA), strict enforcement of the law is needed along with more compliance among drivers. 

The AA said: “When the law came into effect in July 2015 we welcomed the change to the legislation, and called on authorities to ensure a wide education and enforcement campaign was launched to ensure infants get the protection the law provides. We are dismayed that too many people are failing to buckle up and protect children in the car."

Worrying statistics

The Association conducted informal observational research and found that less than 7% of children in cars - deemed to require the use of safety seats - were using them. In many instances children are sitting in the front passenger seat without seatbelts, standing in the car while it’s moving, or at the very least are not in an age, weight and height appropriate car seat. 

Have you encountered children unbuckled in a car? Have you attempted to confront a parent disobeying this law? Email us.

What you should know

MasterDrive MD Eugene, Herbert, shares some vital information about car-seat safety ahead of the holiday season.

Herbert says when it comes to little children, we need to ensure that they're safe.

READ: Harsh truth - Here's why you as a parent should buckle-up your child

He said: "Here's an example of what a driver should do when securing their children in a vehicle. This baby seat is of a good quality and been looked after. It's secured by way of a three-point safety harness.

"The seat itself has an over shoulder harness so when the child is buckled in, it secures them correctly. And in addition here's lots of toys to keep the child occupied during the trip."

READ: AA - 'Road safety is literally in your hands'

The AA noted: “This is extremely worrying and speaks directly to the poor attitude drivers have; not only are they disregarding the law, but they are risking their children’s lives. More needs to be done to enforce this law, otherwise its introduction would have been meaningless."

Global research has shown that putting a child in a car or booster seat (which is properly fastened) reduces the chance of death or serious injury in crashes significantly. Despite this, many people still do not use car seats for their children using excuses such as: “I’m only driving a short distance”, or “I’m going to be driving overnight so there’ll be less traffic on the road”.

No excuses

The AA said: “There are many excuses people give for not strapping their children in when, in reality, there is no excuse good enough not to. Research shows that a properly fitted child seat will reduce the chance of injuries caused by a crash, and possibly even save a child’s life."

WATCH: Controversial campaign - This horror SA ad will make you buckle-up

Apart from ensuring children are secured in a car seat, the AA noted that seatbelt wearing rates in South Africa are currently below 60%, meaning that countless lives are lost, families harmed, and communities impacted due to some motorists’ not wearing seatbelts. 

The Association concluded: "Considering how easy it is to put a child in a car seat, or use a seatbelt, we believe the attitude of some drivers needs urgent attention. We want to again urge every driver to buckle-up and be safe: it’s a simple, easy way to protect yourself."

What the law says

Arrive Alive editor Johan Jonck sheds some light on basic car seat safety and the law.

Wheels24: Can you be fined for not having a car seat in the car and what is the amount of the fine these days?
Jonck: Not for not having in you car – but for not having and not USING when you have a child pedestrian below three years of age. There is no mention of the specific amount but you be facing a fine between R500 and R1000.

W24: Up to what age should children be in a car seat?
Jonck: Up to three-years of age – also check the guide on car seats, booster suits and child restraints 

W24: If you have three or more children young children do they ALL have to be in car seats? 
Jonck: They all have to be - all lives are precious! The law cannot address the problem on the size of your car, it is problematic – but the law is clear.

Readers respond:

Katiso Mosebi: Yes... I have stopped one of my neighbours whom from their house I saw him buckling up and not doing so to the child at the back. I confronted him and he responded appropriately to the request. Kids stand at a high risk as any slight harsh brake or even a small bump from either back or front may lead to serious consequence to the child. There needs to be wider awareness campaign which includes television broadcast or adverts to bring awareness to the public. There are clips from YouTube that illustrates such incident where kids are not buckled and show the consequences of such practice.

Leon Pelser: It is not surprising that less than 7% of children in cars are wearing seatbelts, as road rules have become irrelevant. Far less than 7% of drivers stop at a stop sign, never mind obey any other road rules.

Dewald Erasmus: I drive from Cape Gate area to Paarl every day and I see at least on person having children in the car either smoking with small children in the car and the child/ children not wearing safety belts. I see it quite often that the driver or adults are wearing safety belts (because traffic officers target that sometimes) but then the children aren’t wearing anything.

When you confront them you get swore at, shown the middle finger and told to mind your own business. More emphasis should be put on this by traffic officers than hiding behind bushes and looking for quick bucks with speed traps.

Sibusiso Mbokazi: My kids know that the car will not move an inch if they dont have seat belts on.
I just look at them and they know this man means seat belts on. I haven't really tried to approach anyone that I have seen with kids standing close to the windscreen with the car in motion.

Ayesha Rangila: What about those mums who drive with their babies on their laps? I have even seen one mum breast-feeding her baby while driving. How stupid can people be? If the baby is injured in an accident while on mums lap, those mums should be locked up.

Cornelius Pretorius: I see this every day. I have confronted a mother who became very angry at me for pointing this out. These parents should be prosecuted with heavy fines and or criminal sentences. What are they thinking? No respect for their own kids' lives. PATHETIC.

Norma Boyce: I have stopped many young Mums and the reply is 'this is my child so don't tell me what to do'. One Granny did comply though??

Have you encountered children unbuckled in a car? Have you attempted to confront a parent disobeying this law? Email us.

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