Motor safety

Belt up or else ….. Car safety for our kids

South Africans follow trends in first world countries for so many other things, gadgets, cars and technology to name a few. I was curious to find out what the latest news was on car safety.

Daily we see accidents on our roads and our ears are bombarded with horrendous statistics in the news. The Medical Research Council states that car crashes are the leading cause of injury and/or deaths among children under the age of five years – but do we actually modify our habits?

Daily we can see toddlers jumping around on the back seats or standing between the two front seats. Is it any wonder our children do not survive the impact?

Over the years I have spoken on this topic with many parents who say “ I can’t handle another screaming match about car seats” “I don’t have time for a fight before we get in the car” “ Anything for peace”.

As a coach, I have worked with many parents who have lost a child due to an “accident”, a drowning, a car accident, a child who ran out into the street. The list of regrets, “what if’s” and “If only’s” parents have is nothing less than self–torture as the mourn the loss of their child.

If it is against the law for us not to be wearing seat belts as adults, why do we think our children should not be appropriately restrained? If we as parents say our children are the most precious things in our lives, why do we not give them the greatest protection in the most dangerous of situations?

When my now grown up children got their drivers license, I was thrilled for them that they had achieved their rite of passage to independent mobility but I also told them they now “had a license to kill”. That might sound rather macabre but what I wanted them to understand was that being behind the wheel of a car, is one of the most responsible and dangerous can take on.

As parents we have a responsibility to ensure that our children are as safe as possible wherever they are. Children will follow what we do if we give them clear instructions and clear boundaries on what issues are non- negotiable.

My children new that “Mom’s car did not go if everyone was not in their car seat with belts on. Its not to say we didn’t have a fight or tears occasionally but I would not turn the car on until seat-belts were on! Once the children were old enough to do up their own car seats, we would make it a race between them and I would just check it was locked properly.

Older sister helping younger sister was another way to teach them how important this process was.

On one occasion I remember driving through the suburbs, my girls were about 5 and 7 years old and having an argument over something seemingly unimportant. The 7 year old decided she needed to prove a point and got out of her seat and the 5 year old screamed “Mommy, Hannah’s getting out of her strap”. I asked her to get back into her seat immediately, she refused, the issue with her sister was of  great importance!

I checked in the mirror, and pulled over and parked. I turned to both of the girls and said” I would not be driving again until they were both in their car seats”. They were eager to get to their swimming lesson but we were going no where until they were both safely in their car seats again.

Even now they refer back to the day Mom stopped the car!

It was also a universal rule – any person who travelled in our Kombi had to wear a seatbelt. Plenty of first time refusals of friends, became compliant around this rule in our car.

While I love children of all ages to be curious, question, explore possibilities and engage in discussion, play  and adventure there are a few things in life which are non-negotiable – car seats and seat belts is one of them – they save lives.

A new law in SA on May 1st 2015

Motorists who have children under the age of three unrestrained in their vehicle will be fined.

I am not sure that this new law will make us compliant as drivers. I hope that the  desire for  your child  to live a long and healthy purposeful life will be sufficient to motivate you to do the right thing from day one! And when you get the natural resistance of the toddler and pre-schooler, that you will provide the next size of safety car seat which will keep her safe until she can use the adult seatbelt.

Be safe rather than sorry!

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