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Cape Town - Most of the children who travel without a seatbelt or car seat are from poorer communities, says Professor Marion Sinclair, head of road safety research at the University of Stellenbosch.

Sinclair’s findings are based on two surveys done in 2011 and 2012, looking at seven locations around greater Cape Town.

“The extent of children being belted up is different from location to location. Poorer areas like Gugulethu and Dunoon had the lowest rates of 2 percent and 20 percent respectively,” said Sinclair.

“But even more middle-income areas like Milnerton and Bellville exhibited low rates – 59 percent in Milnerton and 40 percent in Bellville. Overall, across all areas, the rate was an average of 37 percent.”

Sinclair presented her research at a workshop titled “You can save lives” at the Red Cross Children’s Hospital yesterday. The hospital treats many children involved in car crashes, and injuries are often severe because they were not strapped in.


“A seatbelt works in three important ways. First, it stops you from being ejected from the car. If you are thrown out of the car your chances of dying are extremely high, both because your injuries are so much worse from the impact with the ground, but also because you risk being run over by another car.”

A seatbelt also slows down the body during an impact.

“Internal injuries are caused largely by the force of the collision acting upon your organs too fast. The longer it takes you and your organs… to stop moving, the less serious your injuries will be.

“Many deaths occur because people collide with each other while the car is rotating, or from the damage sustained by parts of the body hitting the dashboard, steering wheel or side pillars… A seatbelt is the most effective life-saving device known to man, yet very few people fully appreciate exactly how powerful it is.”


The Western Cape government wants to see more stringent legislation to force parents to transport their children in proper “kiddies’ seats”.

Sinclair said: “At the moment it is legal for kids to be carried in a car and not be belted in if there are not enough seatbelts for all the children. This is unbelievable.”

The going rate for a second-hand car seat for a child from birth until 36 months is an average of R300.

Hector Eliott, chief director of the Safely Home Campaign and Road Safety Co-Co-ordinator, said parents should not be put off by the price of car seats. Non-profit organisations such as Drive More Safely provided free car seats for parents who could not afford them.

Cape Argus