Tips to ensure you keep your precious cargo safe in the car

With the imminent opening of schools after the next few weeks, moms’ and guardians’ taxis will populate our roads once again.

Traveling with your kids in your car, whether on your day-to-day school run or a weekend shopping run, comes with the responsibility of keeping them safe. While you may not have control over other drivers, you can make sure that your children are properly protected in your own car.

Here are some valuable tips from to consider.

Buckle-up basics

Have everyone buckle up for every trip, no matter how short. You can set a good example for children by always wearing your own seatbelt and only starting driving when all seat belts are done up.

Follow the law

Car safety for children starts with correctly fitting child restraints and a car seat is fundamental for keeping your baby or toddler safe on journeys. In South Africa, the law states that it is illegal for an infant (a child under three years) to travel without being strapped into a suitable car seat (*1). If your child weighs nine kilograms or less, they must be in a rear-facing car seat.

The law does not differentiate between a child (a person between the ages of three and fourteen) being strapped into a normal seat belt and a child car seat/booster. However, crash tests show that children under 1,5 metre are much safer in car seats or boosters.

Children strapped in with seatbelts before they are tall enough to achieve a good fit for the seatbelt were found to be three times more likely to be injured in a crash than adults. Ensure you get the correct car seat for your child’s age and weight and install it correctly. Check if your car has ISOfix anchors before purchasing a car seat.

Never leave children alone in a car

Even if you are only planning on stepping out of the car for a few minutes, you should never leave a child unattended in a car. A variety of dangers can occur, including a child fiddling with controls causing the car to move.

On a hot day, the temperature inside a car can also get to dangerously high levels and cause serious harm or even death to your child.

Children are particularly susceptible to overheating and dehydration, and inside a hot car, a toddler’s body temperature can rise three to five times as quickly as that of an adult, which can lead directly to heatstroke and death (*2).

Be prepared in the event of a hijacking

Hijackings, unfortunately, remain a reality and anyone who drives a car needs to be aware and cautious. Being a victim of hijacking while you are alone in your vehicle is traumatic enough, but having your children with you is even more so.

Never leave your children in the car alone, especially if you must get out to open a gate. It is advised that they exit the vehicle with you, so that you are all separated from the vehicle should an attack occur.

Also, when traveling with your children, the National Hijack Prevention Academy recommends that the youngest child should be seated behind the driver and the oldest to the left (*3). If you are hijacked and need to get out of the car, you can move quickly from the driver’s door to the door directly behind it. You can reach across the youngest child to unstrap the older child. The eldest child can cling to you as you remove them both together.

Take the key with you. You need the key as a “negotiating tool” – the perpetrators want your vehicle, and you want your children.

If you have a central locking system, remember to open all doors before getting out of the car and handing the keys over to the hijacker. This will allow you to open your rear passenger doors and get your children out while the hijacker is getting into the driving seat. Remain as calm as possible and follow the hijacker’s instructions, interacting with them only to make clear what movements you are about to make.

Do not be tempted to text

We all know the temptation to check our cell phones when we hear a notification, but reading and responding to messages while driving is a huge no-no. Put your phone on silent while driving. The risk that you put yourself, your passengers and other road users in by being distracted by your phone is not worth it.

Activate child safety locks

To prevent children from opening doors while the car is moving, activate the child safety locks on your car doors. These locks are usually found on the inside of the car doors. You should also lock the power windows to prevent your children from getting injured.

Children can unintentionally trigger a power window, trapping hands, fingers, arms or even their head. At the push of a button, the driver can make the car much safer for children by having complete control over power windows.

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