Cape Town - Car crashes are the second biggest cause of child injuries over the festive season. Professor Sebastian van As, president of Childsafe and head of the trauma unit at Red Cross Children’s Hospital, said they treated about 10 000 children a year.
Most of them are injured in falls, while motor vehicle accidents are the second biggest cause.
Childsafe’s statistics reveal that the number of trauma cases seen at the Red Cross Children’s Hospital Trauma Unit climbs at an alarming rate during November and peaks in December.
The rise in the number of motor vehicle accidents in summer is due in part to the increase in long-distance travel over the holidays, and the main cause of these accidents, around 70 percent, is speed.
Pedestrian accidents are most likely to occur when children are left unsupervised.
“If you haven’t been touched by the tragedy of a child accident it is difficult to understand the turmoil associated with it,” said Van As. “Yet when this happens, entire families are caught up in the loss with feelings of guilt and a sense of failure – all due to one careless incident.”
WHAT YOU CAN DO
Here are a few essential tips for keeping children safe while travelling – both as passengers and pedestrians:
* Buckle up your child for every journey, even if the trip is really short. Kids up to the age of five should be seated in approved safety seats. Car safety seats reduce the risk of death of passengers by 71 percent, for infants, and 54 percent, for toddlers. Holding your baby in your arms instead is extremely dangerous.
* Always ensure the car seat is secure and all harnesses are correctly fastened. Car seats for babies younger than nine months should always face the rear end of your car.
* Never let children stand in cars or unrestrained on the back of bakkies. If the vehicle is travelling at just 25km/h a small child can be killed in an emergency stop if his/her head hits the windscreen or pavement.
* Never drink and drive.
* Make sure your children are wearing light-coloured clothing and reflective strips when walking on streets in poor light conditions or fog. The same goes for their bicycles – make sure they have good, working lights.
* All younger children should always be accompanied by an adult or child older than 8. Teach older kids to always walk on the side of the road facing traffic.
* At home, children should always be supervised and only play in a fenced area with a self-latching gate – all latches should be out of reach of tiny hands. Accidents often occur when kids run into the road to retrieve a ball.
* Check your car regularly – brakes, lights, shock absorbers, tyres etcetera, to reduce the risk of accidents.
* Don’t underestimate the value of good old-fashioned advice. Teach kids from a young age to always look left, then right and left again when crossing a road.
* Stand clear of buses or parked cars before crossing the road so drivers can see you.
* Always walk on the sidewalk; if there is no sidewalk, walk facing oncoming traffic.
* Do not cross where a road bends or leads to a sharp curve.
* Do not wear headphones or talk on your cellphone whilst crossing the road.
* Cross at pedestrian crossings. - Cape Argus
* For more ideas on how you can help prevent childhood accidents and keep your kids safe over the summer, visit www.childsafe.org.za