Africa’s dangerous roads?

Child safety

We’ve put together a list of things to remember when transporting a child:

Don’t leave kids alone in the car

Even on a seemingly cool day, temperatures inside a car can easily get hot enough to give your child a heat stroke, and can even cause death. The temperature in a car can rise to dangerous levels in a matter of minutes, even with the windows open, so don’t leave your child in a car even for short times. Children have a very different heating and cooling process to adults and are less able to regulate their body temperature by sweating, which means that they can overheat easily and are especially vulnerable to heat-related illnesses (this also applies to your dogs and cats, which don’t sweat at all!).

Don’t put kids in the back of the bakkie

As of March this year, it is now illegal to transport children in the back of a bakkie. 90% of children involved in bakkie crashes are ejected from the vehicle, causing serious injury and death. While you may not do this yourself, it’s important to teach your child to refuse to be transported in a bakkie, in case another child’s parent or minder tries to do this.

Keep your eyes open

Check around the outside of your vehicle to make sure your children are safely away – while many cars come with detection devices like backup cameras, these are not infallible and it only takes a second for disaster to strike.


Teach your children them not to play in or around cars, and to move away from a vehicle when a driver gets in and when the car is started. Many of the incidents of heat-related illnesses in children happen when they get stuck inside the boot or passenger compartment of a vehicle while playing inside.


Even though airbags can prevent injury in the event of a crash, they can also be seriously dangerous, especially to children. These airbags deploy at 300 km/h and can cause serious injury to a child. Children should travel in the backseat of a car in a rear-facing car seat.

Child restraints

Seat-belts and child restraints are secondary safety devices that are designed to minimize injury to a passenger in the event of a crash by redistributing the force over the strongest parts of their body, and prevent them from making contact with the interior of the vehicle, with other occupants, and being ejected from the car.

Seat-belts and child restraints are the best way to reduce this risk, and can prevent serious head injury, ejection from the vehicle and can save your child’s life.

Don’t buckle early

As children grow they progress from rear-facing car seats to front-facing car seats, to booster seats and finally to seat belts. Rushing this process could put your child at risk – car seats with inbuilt harnesses are safer than seatbelts. Seatbelts are not designed for the smaller body of a toddler or small child and can lead to serious injury while not effectively preventing ejection. Children under the age of 13 should always sit in the back seat, in a car seat or child restraints. Your child should travel in a forward-facing car seat or booster seat until they are at least 7-years old. Check your child’s weight and height against the seat manufacturer’s guidelines to know when it’s time to get a bigger seat.

Child Car Seats

The safest place in a car for a young child is in a rear-facing car seat, with the front of the seat tilted at a 45-degree angle to support the child’s neck. An infant’s skeleton and skull are very flexible, meaning that a small impact can cause significant damage to a child’s brain, organs, rib cage, pelvis and other parts of the body. Car seats can reduce the risk of your child being injured by as much as 70%. Use a rolled towel under a baby’s head to stop it from slipping forward, and a rolled towel on either side to stop it from moving from side to side.

Children and Seatbelts

When your child is old enough to leave the car seat behind, it’s time for them to buckle up! Wearing a seat belt in a passenger vehicle can reduce infants and toddlers’ risk of fatal injury by as much as 70%, and by up to 60% when driving in a bakkie. It’s important to make sure that your car’s seat belts are installed correctly. The three-point lap and diagonal seat-belt is safer than the two-point lap belt, as the latter doesn’t restrain the passenger’s upper body and neck, which can result in serious head injuries.

Your child needs to be at least 1.45m tall to start using seatbelts instead of a car seat. Do this test to tell if your child is ready to use a seatbelt:

WATCH: How to tell if your child is seat belt ready. Youtube video by RACV.

Basic Guide for Child Restraints

Read on for a basic guide to choosing a child restraint for your car!

Age: 0-1 years

Rear-facing child restraint system. Don’t carry your child or share your seat belt – you will be unable to hold on to your child in a crash, and they could be ejected from the vehicle.

Age: 1–4 years (< 18 kg)

Safety seat that limits forward head movement and provides protection from side impact.

Age: 4–6 years (15 kg to 25 kg)

Booster seats, when your child has outgrown their safety seat.

Age: 6–11 years (22 – 36 kg)

Booster seat with a back, side wings and a sash guide to keep the seatbelt in place. Don’t use shield booster seats (Booster seats with a plastic shield in front of the child) as these offer less protection

(Taken from

Your child can move on to an adult seat belt once their eyes are level with the top of the back seat. The lap belt of the seat belt should sit low over the bony part of the child’s hips and not on the stomach, and the sash should not touch their face or neck when taut. Only buy child restraint’s that you know are in good condition – make sure they haven’t been involved in any crashes, and check their straps, buckles and attachment points for damage. If there is no child restraint available, it is safer for the child to use an adult safety belt than to be unrestrained, but this is not safe.

DISCLAIMER: This guide is meant to give you a brief outline of the child restraints suitable for your car. Make sure to check the manufacturer requirements when purchasing a car seat, and inquire about the most appropriate option for your child.

Child safety in the future

Both car manufacturers and car seat makers are using technology to make their products safer for your little ones. GM has installed a Rear Seat Reminder in some of its models to prevent parents from forgetting their children in their cars when they leave, while Nissan has developed a Rear Door Alert which will remind drivers when to check the back seat if they opened the rear door during the journey. Ford is developing an advanced camera system that detects and recognises children around the car and warns the driver. Car seat manufacturers are adding weight sensors to their seats and connecting them to the parent’s cellphones via an app. Volvo is even designing a whole car, the Excellence Child Seat Concept , around increasing child safety. The car has replaced the front passenger seat with a rear-facing car seat that swivels for easy access.

National Road Traffic Amendment – Compulsory Child Restraints in SA / Car Seats for Kids (2015)


Reg 213. (1) For the purpose of this regulation—

(a) an adult is a person over the age of 14 years or taller than one comma five metres;

(b) a child is a person between the age of three years and 14 years, except where such person is taller than one comma five metres;

(c) an infant is a person below the age of three years.

(2) Any reference to a safety belt in these regulations shall be construed as a reference to a seat belt.

(3) (a) Motor vehicles which are required to be fitted with seatbelts in terms of the relevant requirements as contemplated in regulation 216, shall be fitted with seatbelts in accordance therewith.

(b) In addition to the requirements of paragraph (a), no person shall operate a minibus the gross vehicle mass of which exceeds 2 500 kg, unless seatbelts are fitted to the space on the front seat occupied by the driver, and if such front seat has seating accommodation for passengers, unless seatbelts are fitted for the driver and at least one passenger.

(c) No person shall operate a motor vehicle on a public road unless the seatbelts fitted to such motor vehicle are in good working order.

(d) Seatbelts fitted to a motor vehicle may only be removed for repair or replacement purposes and such motor vehicle may not be used on a public road while such seatbelts are being repaired or replaced.

(e) In addition to the requirements of paragraph (a), no person shall operate a minibus or midibus, first registered after 04 September 2006, operating in terms of an operating licence, unless seatbelts are fitted for every seat in the motor vehicle.

(f) the belt configuration for a seat in the rear of a motor vehicle shall be a 2-point belt or a 3-point belt, with anchorages in accordance with SANS 1430 : Anchorages for restraining devices in motor vehicles”, and installed in accordance with SANS ” 10168: Installation of safety devices (Safety belts in motor vehicles).

(4) No adult shall occupy a seat in a motor vehicle operated on a public road which is fitted with a seatbelt unless such person wears such seatbelt: Provided that the provisions of this regulation do not apply while reversing or moving in or out of a parking bay or area.

(5) No adult shall occupy a seat on a row of seats in a motor vehicle operated on a public road which is not fitted with a seatbelt, unless all other seats on such row which are fitted with seatbelts, are already occupied.

(6) The driver of a motor vehicle operated on a public road shall ensure that a child seated on a seat of the motor vehicle—

(a) where it is available in the motor vehicle, uses an appropriate child restraint; or

(b) if no child restraint is available, wears the seatbelt if an unoccupied seat which is fitted with a seatbelt is available.

(6A) The driver of a motor vehicle operated on a public road shall ensure that an infant traveling in such a motor vehicle is seated on an appropriate child restraint: Provided that this provision shall not apply in a case of a minibus, midibus or bus operating for reward.

Ø Reg 213 (6A) will be in force as from 30 April 2015.

(7) If no seat, equipped with a seatbelt is available in a motor vehicle the driver of the motor vehicle operated on a public road shall ensure that a child shall, if such motor vehicle is equipped with a rear seat, be seated on such rear seat.

(8) (a) A seatbelt shall comply with the standard specification SABS 1080 “Restraining devices for occupants of adult build in motor vehicles (Revised requirements)” and bear a certification mark or approval mark.

(b) A child restraint shall comply with the standard specification SABS 1340 “Child restraining devices in motor vehicles” and bear a certification mark or approval mark.

(9) The MEC may exempt a person from the provisions of this regulation on such medical grounds and under such conditions he or she may deem expedient.

(10) An exemption from wearing a seatbelt in a prescribed territory shall be deemed to be an exemption in terms of subregulation (9) for the period of validity thereof.

(11) The driver of a motor vehicle shall ensure that all persons travelling in such motor vehicle shall wear a seat belt as contemplated in this regulation.

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