Pretoria - Road accidents are one of the biggest killers of children in South Africa, whether in vehicles or as pedestrians.
But experts say there is much that can be done, such as buckling up children and keeping drunk drivers off the road.
According to the Road Traffic Management Corporation (RTMC) last year, 1017 children died, and 45 000 were hospitalised due to injuries sustained in road accidents. For many their lives were changed irrevocably.
Said RTMC on its “Buckle Them Up” campaign to commemorate Transport Month: “Collisions are the leading cause of death and injuries for children under the age of 14.”
In an online discussion where they hosted experts, among them from the motor industry, short term insurance, non-governmental and public sector representatives, it emerged that keeping children strapped in and off busy roads could be a life-saver.
Child deaths constituted 8% of the total number of road traffic fatalities in the country last year. Most of these died when hit while walking, with others injured while in a motor vehicle involved in a collision.
RTMC manager for data analysis and reporting, Magadi Gainewe, said more than half the child deaths on the roads occurred in three provinces; KwaZulu-Natal, Gauteng and the Eastern Cape.
Yolande Baker from Child Safe said for every child who died as a result of road crashes, 45 were injured. “Child survivors of road crashes are often treated for head, neck, chest and abdominal injuries,” she said.
Children could also develop post-traumatic stress disorder, phobias, anxiety and flashbacks from their accidents. Participants agreed that restraints such as child seats and seat belts were the most important ways to prevent child injuries and fatalities.
Car seats could reduce child deaths by 71% and injuries by 67% if always and properly used, Peggy Mars from Wheels Well said.