Why kids need extra care on the roads over long weekends


Over 500 road fatalities were recorded over the Easter break, with young children particularly at risk. Here's why we need to be proactive in keeping kids safe.

Despite school holidays, family time and the promise of chocolate eggs, the past Easter break was a tragic one for families across South Africa. According to a press release by the Road Traffic Management Corporation (RTMC), a total number of 510 fatalities were recorded from March 29 to April 9 2018.

This number represents a 14% increase when compared to the 449 who died in the same period last year. This in turn was a 50% increase on the year before. The release states: "Of concern is the increase in the number of young children and middle aged individuals who died as pedestrians on the roads. Children between 0 and four years of age recorded an increase of 4.9% from 2.6% in 2017 to 7.5% in 2018."

Although children are not the drivers of vehicles, they can pay dearly on the roads, and need responsible adults to look out for them. Here's why:

Reasons children are more at risk for road traffic injuries

Many roads and suburbs are planned without sufficient consideration of the specific needs of children. Younger children are limited by their physical, cognitive and social development, making them more vulnerable in road traffic than adults:

  • Because of their small stature, it can be difficult for children to see surrounding traffic and for drivers and others to see them.
  • If children are involved in a road traffic crash, their softer heads make them more susceptible to serious head injury than adults.
  • Younger children may have difficulties interpreting various sights and sounds, which may impact on their judgement regarding the proximity, speed and direction of moving vehicles.
  • Younger children may also be impulsive, and their short attention spans mean that they struggle to cope with more than one challenge at a time.

According to the World Health Organisation (WHO May 2015), around 186 300 children under 18 years die from road traffic crashes annually. This is a global statistic, but rates of road traffic death among children are 3 times higher in low- and middle-income countries than in high-income countries.

8 ways drivers can be proactive in caring for kids

What all the statistics boil down to is a need for adults to look out for children, passengers and pedestrians in these ways:

  1. If you are a parent or caregiver, make sure your children are buckled up in safe, age appropriate and correctly installed car seats before you hit the road. According to Wheel Well, 8 out of 10 child car seats are not installed correctly.
  2. Always strap children in, even if it is a short trip just around the block. Also remember to buckle up correctly and take extra care if you are driving while pregnant.
  3. Studies show that your emotional state can impact your safety on the road. Learn how it can affect you, and tips to help you stay calm and alert when you drive.
  4. Although you can't control other road users, you can control how you anticipate, identify and avoid hazards on the road. Learn to drive defensively here.
  5. Things like eating, texting, smoking, talking and fiddling with gadgets in the car can lead to distracted driving, which can cause fatal injuries on the road. Learn the dangers of distracted driving and how to prevent them here.
  6. Research shows that drivers suffer from tunnel vision when they're under great stress. Find more tips on how to practice mindful driving here.
  7. As far as possible, invest in technology that will help keep you and your loved ones safe, and remember to check that your surroundings are thoroughly clear of children, animals or obstacles when parking and reversing.
  8. If you cannot afford a car seat, contact Wheel Well who can assist with a car seat from their Car Seats for Kids campaign. And if you have a car seat to spare that your child has outgrown, consider donating it to Wheel Well to help another child in need.

Remember, young children cannot keep themselves safe, so it's up to us as adults and drivers to protect them, and each other, through responsible, safe driving. With another long weekend coming up, make sure you take all the precautions you can to ensure it's a happy, stress-free holiday for all road-users.

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