How often has one heard this refrain from one’s own child? Not often, we can bet. However given the amendments to the National Road Traffic Act 93 of 1996 effective 1 May 2015, buckling up is now compulsory for children under the age of 3 years.
Every day, nearly 40 people die on South African roads, and 3 to 4 of these deaths are children. South Africa has the third highest road death toll in the world, following the Cook Islands and Libya respectively.
Use of seatbelts for children in foreign countries
Prior to 1 May 2015 in South Africa, there was no penalty for a parent who travelled in a car without ensuring that their 3 year old or younger passenger was strapped safely into a car seat designed for such purpose. This placed South Africa in the same ranking as China, India, Kenya, Indonesia, Madagascar, Malaysia and Mauritius who also have no legislation for compulsory seat belts for children in vehicles. Monaco is one of the few countries that does not enforce compulsory seat belt use and has no legislation for children to be restrained within a vehicle.
However, in South Africa, as from 1 May 2015, parents who do not strap their under the age of 3 year old child into a car seat will be issued with a traffic fine. We are certain that the law applies not only to parents but to any driver transporting a child under the age of three.
Risks of non- use of a seatbelt
Failure to use a seatbelt is a major risk factor for road traffic injury and deaths among vehicle occupants. When a motor vehicle crash occurs, a car occupant without a seat belt will continue to move forward at the same speed at which the vehicle was travelling before the collision and will be catapulted into the front of the vehicle. More than half of all countries have implemented a child restraint law, but these represent just 32% of the world’s population.
Response to the new rules
Unlike seatbelts, child restraints are not automatically installed in vehicles and must be purchased and fitted by parents. This makes it more challenging to achieve higher usage rates, especially in low and middle income countries. There are those who have indicated that generally speaking they are happy to use the child restraints however their children do not like being restrained in a car seat and cry uncontrollably until they reach their destination. Some have indicated that a child car seat is an expense which they are just unable to afford.
Appropriate child restraint use may be limited by access and cost or be impractical because of large family size. In addition, parents must make a number of decisions about what type of child restraint to choose, where to place it and how to install it which can also limit uptake. However, the argument against this type of defence is that the value of one’s child is greater than the expense of a proper car seat for one’s child.
It is evident that more countries need to adopt child restraint laws. This regulation is a welcome one in South Africa which we hope all parents, and motorists transporting young children, will follow.
Kim Rademeyer – Partner