Why do we need a law in South Africa to enforce the use of baby and child carseats?

Every day, everywhere I go I see children clambering around the car, standing up holding on to the front dashboard of a moving vehicle.  Surely common sense prevails or more importantly the love for your child/children and the responsibilty as an adult of another human being???

I have copied an article from the website: Please have a read below and remember it only takes a few seconds to buckle your child in safely.


Introduction to Child Restraints and Road Safety

Increasing motorization worldwide has brought more crashes and injuries to vehicle occupants, particularly in low- and middle-income countries. One of the most effective measures to protect occupants from injury in the event of a crash is the fitment and use of seat-belts and child restraints. Restraints save lives and reduce injury severity – all vehicle occupants should be appropriately restrained when travelling in a motor vehicle.

The seat-belt is the single most effective feature in a vehicle to reduce the severity of injury to the vehicle occupants that results from road traffic crashes. Article 7 of the Vienna Convention on Road Traffic of 1968 states: “The wearing of safety belts is compulsory for drivers and passengers of motor vehicles, occupying seats equipped with such belts, save where exceptions are granted by domestic legislation.”

Failure to use a seat-belt is a major risk factor for road traffic deaths and injuries among vehicle occupants. Passengers who do not wear seat-belts and have a frontal crash are most likely to suffer a head injury. It should also be noted that the financial burden of increased death and injury severity can have a major impact on the finances of the government and local communities who deal with road crash victims and their families in the aftermath of a crash.

Rates of seat-belt use vary greatly between countries, governed to a large extent by the type of laws that require seat-belts to be fitted in vehicles and cars, and the laws requiring them to be worn. In many low-income countries there is no requirement for belts to be fitted or used, and rates of use are therefore correspondingly low. For many of these countries there is significant potential for improvement in wearing rates of seatbelts and child restraints.

Research Data and Statistics on the importance of Seatbelts / Child Restraints/ Baby Seats

  • A review of research on the effectiveness of seat-belts found that their use reduces the probability of being killed by 40–50% for drivers and front seat passengers and by about 25% for passengers in rear seats. 
  • A study in Norway calculated that head injuries make up some 60% of all injuries to vehicle occupants. The study concluded that drivers and front seat passengers who do not use seat-belts suffer almost the same percentage of head injuries as non-users in rear seats.
  • Ejection from a vehicle is one of the most injurious events that can happen to a person in a crash, with 75% of all vehicle occupants ejected from a vehicle in a crash dying as a result.
  • Seat-belts are effective in preventing ejections: overall, 44% of unrestrained passenger vehicle occupants killed are ejected, partially or totally, from the vehicle, as compared to only 5% of restrained occupants.
  • Seat-belts are approximately 50% effective in preventing fatalities in crashes in which motorists would otherwise die. It is estimated that seat-belt use prevented about 15 200 deaths in the United States in 2004. If all passenger vehicle occupants over 4 years of age in the United States had used seat-belts in 2004, nearly 21 000 lives could have been saved (that is, an additional 5800 lives).
  • A review of various United States studies has shown that child safety seats that are correctly installed and used for children aged 0–4 years can reduce the need for hospitalization by 69%. 
  • The risk of death for infants is reduced by 70%, and that for children aged 1–4 years by 47–54%. Of children aged under 5 years, 485 lives could have been saved in the United States in 2002 if all the children had been in child safety seats.
  • It has been estimated in the United Kingdom that new rules on the use of child restraints rather than adult seat-belts for children up to 135 cm in height or aged 12 years and above will save over 2000 child injuries or deaths every year .
  • It is estimated that within the European Union seat-belts currently reduce driver fatalities by 40%. 
  • Wearing rates in European countries vary widely from around 70% to over 95%. If all European Union countries were to achieve a 99% wearing rate for drivers, 2400 lives would be saved each year.

In many high-income countries the use of child restraints is common – with usage rates up to 90% – but in other countries they are still rarely used.

Understanding the way Seatbelts and Child Restraints / Baby Seats work

 Seat-belts and child restraints are secondary safety devices and are primarily designed to prevent or minimize injury to a vehicle occupant when a crash has occurred. Seat-belts and child restraints thus:

  • reduce the risk of contact with the interior of the vehicle or reduce the severity of injuries if this occurs;
  • distribute the forces of a crash over the strongest parts of the human body;
  • prevent the occupant from being ejected from the vehicle in an impact;
  • prevent injury to other occupants (for example in a frontal crash, unbelted rear-seated passengers can be catapulted forward and hit other occupants).

The actions of rear seat passengers can affect both injuries that they themselves might incur and those that may be sustained by the driver or front seat passenger. An unrestrained rear seat passenger poses a serious threat to any restrained person seated directly ahead of them. A belted occupant will be kept in their seat and thus will reduce speed at the same rate as the car, so that the mechanical energy to which the body is exposed will be greatly reduced. Thus the use of seat-belts by rear seat passengers could not only reduce the likelihood and severity of injury to themselves, but also to drivers and front seat passengers.