Forget about driving Miss Daisy – when you display a -Baby on board sticker on your car, you need to change your mindset and drive as though you are transporting the world’s most precious and valuable cargo – which you are! Your baby, toddler or child!
The sad reality is that few people change their driving habits after they become parents and while transporting their children they continue to drive with little or no regard for the rules of the road and less regard for their lives of their children.
Here are the facts:
-According to the national statistics, 84 percent of children in South Africa travel in cars without wearing safety belts. Passenger deaths in children are the fourth leading cause of unintentional deaths in South Africa, according to the Medical Research Council’
This is how you can make a change and make certain that your child does not become a national statistic!
Safe driving do’s and don’ts
- Buckle up! It is shocking that a lot of South African motorists choose not to wear their seatbelts. A seatbelt is not an optional accessory on a car. If you think a seatbelt is restrictive, try a wheelchair! It is that simple.
- Never, ever allow a child to stand on the front or back seat while driving. If the car comes to an abrupt stop the child will be flung out of the vehicle and will go through the windscreen. Not only is the child in constant danger, but a toddler or child which is not strapped in, is a distraction for the driver! Do not take the risk – strap in your child no matter if you are driving a block or across town!
- If you are not already aware of Oprah Winfrey’s campaign against texting or talking on a cell phone while driving, here is some insight. Accidents are being caused each and every day because drivers are spending more time texting or talking on their phones than actually paying attention to the road. It has been proven that texting and driving is more dangerous than driving while under the influence of alcohol. If you have your children in the car, ask yourself – is sending that SMS more important than their lives? Make your car a -No Phone Zone’. Several US states have banned texting while driving. The United Kingdom has followed suit and texting while driving is now against the law.
- Never drink and drive. Not only is this illegal but you are putting your life, the lives of your passengers and other road users at risk. If you suspect your partner is over the limit and you are unable to drive, call a taxi, call a friend, or wait it out!
- Install an SABS approved car seat into your vehicle and use it! A regular complaint by mothers is that their baby does not like the car seat or fusses when being strapped in. The fact is that a baby should never be left unrestrained in a vehicle and even though the crying may be heartbreaking, as a responsible parent your role is to make certain that your child is securely strapped in for every journey.
- Never put a baby in a carrycot on the backseat. The cot is not anchored and if the driver needs to brake suddenly, the carrycot will be flung off the seat. Always use an approved car chair for your baby. Once the toddler outgrows the baby seat, invest in a good quality, safety chair and strap your child in all the time.
- Do not let a baby or child sit on the lap of a passenger. People may think that the passenger and the child can use the safety belt together. This is not the case. Under no circumstances should a child or baby be in a passenger seat unless using a specially designed car seat, and never sitting on a passenger’s lap.
- Do not use a car seat in the passenger seat in a car that is fitted with a passenger side airbag.
- Do not leave a child in a parked car unattended! The temperature in a parked car is often double that of the outside temperature.
- Never try to use the front seat belt to secure a small child in the front seat, without the suitable safety chair. The belt has not been designed to secure a toddler and in the event of an accident, the belt may do more harm than good.
- Never, ever drive with a baby on your lap! It is hard to believe that this practice of -baby driving’ is still occurring. Parents may think it is cute when their child is -learning’ to drive but it dangerous and irresponsible behaviour!
- When travelling long distance to enjoy a family holiday, remember to stop and rest. Drivers who are fatigued have slower reaction times and are unable to respond quickly in dangerous situations. Children who are restrained in car seats should be given a break and a chance to stretch their legs. Do not rush for the mountains, beach or bush, they have been there for millions of years and they will wait for you for another hour or two.
- Try and install the baby car seat in such a way that the baby is visible when looking into the rear-view mirror. This will prevent the driver from turning around to check on the baby.
In reality safe driving practices or habits are basic common sense. The rules of the roads are in place to protect drivers and need to be adhered to. Adhering to the speed limits and obeying the rules of the road is not an option but law and if you are transporting your children, you owe it to them to adhere to all the regulations.
Thousands of children under the age of 18 die on South African roads each and every year and it is up to parents to keep their kids safe on the roads, as best as they can. Do not take the risk! One wrong or poorly thought-out choice today, like allowing a child to stand on the front seat of a moving car, may result in a lifetime of sorrow, heartache and regret.
Below are actual statements made by parents as to why they choose not to use their car seats:
- My car is too small for a car seat anyway.
- Using a car seat is just so inconvenient! My privacy is also an issue. Do I want everyone to know when they see my car that I have a child??? Besides, my children need to learn how to ride in the car without being in the car seat. I don’t want a 3 year old still wanting to get in his seat!
- I will be returning to work in 6 weeks and I don’t want a big old car seat in the back of our luxury car. I never put my first son in a car seat and he is just fine.
- I refuse to feel guilty for making an educated choice to not put my baby in a car seat. There are so many militant car seat users in our society and I am tired of them pushing their beliefs on me. There are lots of reasons I have made this choice.
What is your excuse or your reason for not using a car seat, not buckling up, or driving with your child standing on the front seat?