Buckling babies and toddlers into car seats gets a lot of attention, but keeping older children safe in our cars is just as important.
Image source: Getty/Gallo
“What we need to understand as parents and motorists is that our vehicles are travelling at speed and even if you aren’t involved in an accident, just harsh braking can send a child not strapped in hurtling forward in the car,” says Dewald Ranft, chairman of the Motor Industry Workshop Association (MIWA).
Too often, he says, older children sit in the back or even the front seat of vehicles without seat belts, are fooling around while the car is in motion, stick their heads or even half their bodies out of the window and more. “There have been countless incidents where accidents have taken place and children are thrown through windscreens or out of side windows. This can obviously result in severe head trauma and death.”
He adds that often this kind of behaviour is deemed as fun, but the reality is that any moving vehicle is a risk. “Kids sitting in the back of a bakkie is another big no-no. Even with the canopy on, if that bakkie rolls the children will be thrown around in the back of the bakkie and can be severely injured. Gone are the days when putting your kids in the back of a bakkie was fine. We travel at far faster speeds now on our roads because our vehicles are designed to do so. This even applies to smaller roads.
Speaking to and educating older children on the risks of being in a car is very important. “They are old enough to understand so make it a rule in your car that everyone is strapped in and sitting in the right seats before you go anywhere.”
Factor in regular stops
He reiterates that it is essential when travelling with young children to ensure that car seats are properly secured. Statistics show that up to 70% of car seats are incorrectly installed. Parents must also ensure that the seat is the age-appropriate size.
“Remember that children, especially toddlers, get fidgety when sitting still for long stretches. If you are doing a long trip factor in regular stops to give everyone a chance to stretch their legs. Try to pick pit-stops with fun activities for children such as jungle gyms. This gives kids a chance to work off some energy without distracting mom or dad while they drive," he says.
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