Cape Town - Despite laws prohibiting motorists from leaving child passengers unbuckled or standing while in a vehicle, a large number of motorists are still caught flouting the law. At least three children are killed each week on Western Cape roads, according to the provincial traffic department.
Department spokesman Byron la Hoe said 1202 children up to 14 years old were killed on the roads between 2009 and 2016.
“That's an average of 171 a year - more than three children a week,” he said.
According to the department, 926 seat-belt violations were recorded by Provincial Traffic Services in December 2016. Of those, 291 were passengers, many of whom were children. The department does not keep records of the age of offenders. The City’s Traffic Services issued 12 770 seat belt fines in the past four months.
Mayoral committee member for social services and security JP Smith said the department was concerned that not enough drivers made child safety a priority.
“There can be no justification for the number of children we still see standing upright in moving vehicles. In the event of a crash, that child’s chances of survival are extremely slim.”
The law says...
The National Road Traffic Act requires drivers to ensure that all children between the ages of 3 and 14, except those taller than 1.5 metres, are strapped in. If no seat belt is available and the vehicle is equipped with a rear seat, the driver must ensure that the child is seated at all times. An amendment made in 2015 made provisions for infants to be buckled up.
Nationally, 1714 people were killed on the roads during the holiday season and according to provincial traffic, at least 70 children were killed in motor vehicle crashes.
La Hoe said injuries sustained by children whose parents neglected to buckle them up ranged from extreme facial disfigurement, to death, especially when ejected from a vehicle.
He said the perception that unbuckled children in a slower-moving vehicle were relatively safer was misguided.
“While higher speed exponentially increases the risk of a crash occurring and the severity of a crash smaller children are often permanently disfigured, maimed or even killed in crashes where travel speed is as low as 20km/h ,” he said. “Drivers who do not buckle up all children in a vehicle are gambling with the lives of our most precious resource.”
Motorists caught contravening the seatbelt regulations can face a fine of R500 - R1000.
“Research has found that seat belts are 99 percent effective in preventing occupants from being ejected in the event of a crash, but they also reduce the risk of death in a crash by nearly 45 percent,” he said.