Take a seat

Take a seat

Ensuring children are securely strapped in is no longer optional (though it should never have been to begin with); one of the lesser-discussed recent amendments to the National Road Traffic Act. One organisation is doing sterling work in this regard.

By the time you read this, October Transport Month will be done and dusted and we’ll be just a few short weeks away from calling it quits on 2015.

Did anything truly useful come out of October Transport Month? Year after year (it’s now ten years old) it is criticised as being little more than a month of lip service by government, about implementing better public transport, cutting congestion, clamping down on drunken driving and reducing road fatalities – with little in the way of follow up thereafter.

Transport Month 2015 kicked off with a truck drivers’ empowerment event; we had the EcoMobility World Festival 2015 in Sandton (essentially the poster child for this year’s event, marred by the fatal collapse of the pedestrian walkway onto the M1 highway); a law-enforcement operation in Swartruggens; the Go!George launch; and a mini career expo.

As I write this, though, it is still October and the full results are yet to be seen. Therefore I’m going to focus on a non-governmental campaign, and, if there’s one that’s worth supporting on a continual basis, I think Wheel Well’s Car Seats for Kids campaign is it!

Wheel Well – a Section 21 non-profit company – creates awareness about the risks of carrying an unsecured child in a car. It also sources and provides baby car seats for parents who cannot afford them, provides car-seat maintenance and offers sound advice for choosing the correct seats for a child.

During October Transport month, which Wheel Well dubbed the “Month of Amazing”, the organisation focused on the Western Cape region – collecting car seats in and around Cape Town, with the kind support and sponsorship of Imperial.

The 94.7 Breakfast Express show and John Robbie’s show on 702 did call-outs for seats, while Renault, Hyundai and Kia dealerships nationwide also participated as drop-off points during the campaign.

In total, over 550 seats were donated to Wheel Well during the Month of Amazing. Yet, says Peggie Mars, founder of Wheel Well, that’s nowhere near enough.  

“Even with 5 231 seats distributed from the Car Seats for Kids campaign, there are still far too many children not secured in a car seat. Eight children die on our roads daily and lower-income families are five-times more likely to be affected,” Mars notes.

Why is it so important to keep a child properly restrained? In an accident, the vehicle loses its speed almost immediately, yet everything in that vehicle keeps moving at the speed the vehicle was moving before the collision.

An infant’s skull is very soft, so even a small impact can result in significant injury. Furthermore, a vehicle’s seat belts (even at the back) are designed for an adult frame and will not hold a child in place sufficiently. Anyone under 1,5 m tall needs to be in a child seat, or on a booster seat, to be properly restrained.

“The grace period for parents to become compliant with Amendment 22 of the Road Traffic Act, which makes car seats compulsory for children under the age of three, expired at the end of October.

“Unfortunately, there are still many parents who cannot afford new car seats. The gift of safety will make the world of difference in keeping our children safe and stopping this horrible carnage,” says Mars.

Well done Wheel Well for the amazing work you do – not only during October Transport Month. Government could learn a thing or two … I’ll be interested to see if it got things right this October Transport Month.

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