Durban - Disturbing new research suggests that less than seven percent of children who should be in car safety seats while travelling, actually are.
Earlier this year, the Automobile Association of South Africa did research to determine to what extent parents were placing children in safety seats, as per the legal requirements.
“We found that less than seven percent of children in cars were using them,” it said on Wednesday. “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.”
eThekwini metro police spokesman Sbonelo Mchunu said his officers often found parents slacking off on car safety. Children were often not secured, or not secured properly, in cars, he said.
In July 2015 a new law came into effect that required all children under the age of three to be in a child seat.
“At the time, we welcomed the new law, but called on authorities to ensure a wide education and enforcement campaign was launched,” the AA said.
Yet more than a year later, little has changed.
“This speaks directly to the poor attitude drivers have,” it said. “Not only are they disregarding the law, but they are risking their children’s lives. More needs to be done to enforce this law.”
Global research had shown that putting a child in a properly-fastened car or booster seat significantly reduced the chance of death or serious injury in a crash, the association said.
Despite this, many people still did not use safety seats for their children, using excuses such as: “I’m driving a short distance”, or “I’m going to be driving overnight, so there’ll be less traffic on the road.”
ER24’s Russel Meiring said on Wednesday it was quite common for paramedics to encounter parents who were not using child seats or not using them properly.
Child seatbelt guide
Infants should ride rear-facing at least until they are one year old.
Once they exceed the weight or height limit set by the manufacturer of the infant safety seat, they should continue to ride rear-facing in a convertible safety seat. It is best to keep toddlers rear-facing as long as possible.
When they have outgrown this seat, they should use a forward-facing safety seat with a full harness until they exceed the weight and/or height limit set by the manufacturer.
Children who have outgrown a convertible safety seat should use a booster seat until they are at least 1.2 metres tall.
Children who are tall enough to wear an adult seat belt should still ride in the back seat until they are 13. Adjust the seat belt so the lap belt crosses the child’s upper thighs and the diagonal belt crosses the upper chest between the neck and shoulder.