“All you have to do is hold your child to understand that you are dealing with something very fragile. It is therefore of critical importance that parents take every measure to protect their children from the possibility of sustaining serious injuries in the event of an accident when travelling in a motor vehicle.”
So says René Grobler, who heads up the Netcare Trauma Injury Prevention (TIP) programme, an awareness and educational project aimed at preventing South Africans from experiencing injury. She points out that every year in South Africa, around 10 000 people die and another 150 000 people are injured in road accidents.
“Studies show that, in the case of vehicle accidents, injuries are often prevented and lives saved when adults and children were properly restrained. Fitted safety belts and child restraints have been found to absorb the energy caused by a rapid deceleration which occurs during a crash. In addition, restraints reduce the risk of ejection from the vehicle and – if fitted properly – spread the forces caused by a crash over stronger bones rather than softer internal organs,” observes Grobler.
European engineers were the first to recognise that biological differences between adults and children would limit the effectiveness of seat belts for children. In the 1960s, they therefore developed a design specifically for children. This was a seat with child-sized internal harnesses attached to the vehicle frame by the vehicle’s safety belt. In 1963, the first rear-facing infant seat was developed.
The South African National Road Traffic Act states that all reasonable steps must be taken to protect children from injury while travelling with them on the roads, and the benefits of properly restraining children are clear. According to Grobler, rearward-facing child restraints have been shown to reduce injury by as much as 76% and severe injury by 92%. Forward-facing restraints are less effective but still reduce injury by 34% and severe injury by 60%.
“The lesson is that child restraints and safety seats are effective and should be used every time a parent or guardian travels with a youngster in a vehicle. It should be kept in mind that accidents may and do occur even during a short trip within the neighbourhood. Use a restraint seat that is appropriate for the size of your child. Belt-positioning booster seats are effective in preventing injuries to children who have outgrown their child safety seats,” adds Grobler.
The Netcare Trauma Injury Prevention programme supported the recent Child Safety Seat Distribution Day, which was held in Johannesburg in collaboration with the Glen Shopping Centre, Wheel Well, Cartrack, Masterdrive, the SAPS and the Johannesburg Metro Police.
“Our aim was to reach and educate as many as possible parents and guardians about the benefits of using restraints. Parents were given the opportunity to obtain an age-appropriate car seat for their child or donate used car seats and bicycle helmets that they are no longer using,” concludes Grobler.
Issued by : Martina Nicholson Associates (MNA) on behalf of Netcare
Contact : Martina Nicholson, Graeme Swinney, Sarah Beswick and Jillian Penaluna
Telephone : (011) 469 3016
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