I was surprised by the transport department’s recent announcement that children under the age of three are now legally required to buckle up in the appropriate restraint system.
I was under the impression that this had always been the case, but a closer look at the National Road Traffic Regulations Act revealed that only older children and adults were named when it was first written all those years ago.
This was a massive oversight, but at least it’s been fixed. Now I can finally drive around town without losing my cool whenever I see a car with a young child jumping around on the back seat.
A while back I actually considered mounting a megaphone to the top of my car which I could use to reprimand ignorant parents about the latent meat missile on the rear seat.
“Meat missile” might seem a bit strong, but I remember reading a few years ago about a study on the subject. Engineers at a vehicle testing facility staged a crash with two small crash test dummies in the rear seats. One of them was fastened in a forward-facing child seat and the other was left unfastened.
The vehicle was propelled to around 80km/h, after which it hit a solid concrete wall. According to the data, the child in the booster seat suffered only minor injuries, but the unfastened child shot straight through the front windscreen and into the wall.
In a real crash, that child would have gone through the windscreen and into whatever had caused the accident. I may be wrong, but I’m guessing that hitting a solid immovable object at 80km/h probably has fatal consequences. That’s why I’m so glad the baby buckle-up law has come into force.
But there’s a big catch. Just because something is law doesn’t necessarily mean people will adhere to it. Take cellphone use while driving as a prime example. I see people typing away at their phones at every single intersection I stop at every day, and it’ll be the same story with the new baby seat law.
I’ve been doing some research on the topic and I’ve discovered three explanations as to why people don’t fasten their kids in properly.
The first is sheer ignorance or, as I like to call it, stupidity. I wish I could somehow paste the crash video to this page, but since that’s impossible, you’ll just have to search for it on YouTube. Watch that, and I promise you that you’ll never leave your child unbuckled ever again.
The second reason is affordability. I can understand this argument to a certain extent, as I recently made a massive dent in my PlayStation 4 fund when we needed a new child seat. Prices start at around R700, but a fairly decent one with side impact protection, three-slot harness and cup holders will set you back a few thousand.
I also found a few places that refurbish old child seats and sell them at a massive discount, which means the argument about cost doesn’t really hold up. If you can afford a car, you can afford a child seat.
The third excuse is probably the most idiotic of the lot. “My child doesn’t like to be restrained. He gets finicky and cries the whole way.”
My response might sound a bit harsh, but would you rather have an annoying child or a dead one? It really is as simple as that.
I normally don’t put much stock in self-help books, but the What to Expect series is absolutely brilliant, especially on the topic of car safety for kids.
It’s true that children don’t like to be restrained. I know this from experience, but What to Expect taught me an easy to use ploy that might come in handy if you’ve never heard of it before.
Small children are highly impressionable, which means you only need to set a good example and they’ll follow in your footsteps. At first I thought this was just some new age parenting nonsense, but then we tried it and it worked like a charm.
While I buckle up my son, my wife gets in and buckles herself up so he can see. We make a rather big deal of it, explaining that Mommy wears her seatbelt because it’s the right thing to do. Afterwards, I get in as well and the process is repeated.
We did this a few times and now the crying and wrestling out of the seat has stopped completely. I put him in the seat and he just accepts that he has to wear a seatbelt.
So there’s really no excuse for not restraining your kids in the car. It may seem like a struggle to some, but what’s a few lost minutes here and there when they result in the most precious thing in your life being as safe as he/she could possibly be?