- Wheel Well-News-Safety
JOHANNESBURG, 12 April 2022 - In 2020, children made up a staggering 34% of all fatalities caused by road accidents, up from 31% the previous year. In human terms, this meant that 672 children in the age group of 0-9 years died while being passengers in vehicles. As we prepare for the Easter long weekend, Wheel Well is calling on all parents to make sure that their children are buckled up in appropriate car seats if they are on the roads over this holiday period.
Collisions are the leading cause of death and injuries for children under the age of 14, according to the Road Traffic Management Corporation.¹
“Easter is a wonderful time for families but it’s sadly also when road traffic fatalities spike—and children are particularly vulnerable as they are on the roads in higher than usual numbers. The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) says that the risk of injury is reduced by as much as 82% for children when a car seat is used, as compared to using a seatbelt on its own,” says Peggie Mars, Founder of Wheel Well, an non-governmental organisation that focuses on road safety for children.
“The reduction in road traffic caused by the lockdowns meant that last year’s figures are likely to be lower, but with traffic volumes expected to be higher this year, we are calling on motorists to ensure that their young passengers are using car seats.”
Wheel Well provides professionally reconditioned used car seats to parents who cannot afford them in a bid to make this life-saving product available to as many South Africans as possible. Since Wheel Well launched a decade ago, 13 829 car seats have been donated to the organisation, with 10 244 of them distributed to those who need them after reconditioning and safety checking. Wheel Well has partnered with SupaQuick, whose network of 200 fitment centres are used as collection points for donated car seats.
Despite the fact that research² shows that children under five years of age are at especially high risk of serious injury and death, and that car seats reduce that risk, only 7.8% of South African child passengers are properly protected through the use of properly used car seats.
The World Health Organisation advises that unrestrained children are more likely to be killed in collisions than those using appropriate children restraints.
“It’s important that children have the right car seats for their size and age, and that’s where the Wheel Well team has a big role to play,” Ms Mars says. “This is an easy way to reduce dramatically the sky-high child mortality rates in South Africa. We are urging all parents to make sure their children are restrained when in vehicles, and to contact us if they cannot afford a suitable car seat.”
Aside from providing car seats to those who cannot afford them, Wheel Well has a multipronged strategy to improve the overall road-traffic environment for children. Key initiatives include amending Regulation 213 of the National Road Traffic Act to increase the age for mandatory car seats to six years; improving the protocols for the care of child crash victims; and greater transparency in how road fatality statistics are collected.
¹Bongani Mbatha, “Road accidents the biggest killers of children in SA”, IOL (27 October 2020).
²Prasanthi Puvanachandra, Aliasgher Janmohammed, Pumla Mtambeka, Megan Prinsloo , Sebastian Van As, Margaret M Peden, “Affordability and Availability of Child Restraints in an Under-Served Population in South Africa”, International Journal of Environmnetal Research and Public Health 17 (6) (March 2020), available at https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/32192206/.