5 dramatic stories of life, death and seat belts
Tragedy strikes on our roads- our readers share stories of death and preservation.
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Readers of the article “SA’s stupidest parents” have responded passionately to the message that parents should ensure their children wear seat belts in order to avoid tragedy. Some of their testimonials are tragic, some a reminder that a seat belt can save your life. Here, with a comment from Mr Donald Grant, Western Cape MEC of Transport and Public Works, are their stories:

READ: SA’S STUPIDEST PARENTS: Up to 200 children die in accidents every month, so why don't parents buckle their kids up?

In response to a Facebook status and the article:

•    Kry Nesto: “…The driver of the bakkie which my bro was in lost control and went off the road and was thrown almost 2 meters away through the windscreen . One of the ladies flies from the bakkie, hit the road and died instantly the other lady hit smashed her head while the car was rolling. My bro was wearing seat belt- he came out of the car after rolling 5 times without a scratch on him. I don’t even know how did he survive, but I just thank the seat belt and God among all the four he was the only one person who survived. I started to understand the reason why the seatbelt is there, it’s not for law enforcers but to save your life.” [Edited for space]

•    Carmen: “My husband was in a car accident about nine years ago with his then girlfriend. He was buckled and she was not, she was lying on the backseat, as it was late and she was tired. He survived the accident, and she was unfortunately killed.”

•    Ashleigh: “I t-boned a woman who skipped a stop street. If I didn't have a seatbelt I would have gone through the windshield and probably died (or at least been very badly injured.). I was a paramedic as well so I have seen some bad accidents, my advice is always "no matter how short the trip, put your seatbelt on!" I get very angry on the road when I see kids bouncing around in the car with no belt on.”

•    Leigh-Rose: “The last child I had to sign a declaration of death for was a beautiful little four year old. Allowed to stand between the front seats while mom was driving. Why? "because we can't travel very fast in peak hour traffic". When mom, distracted by her daughter who should have been in a car seat failed to realise that the car in front of her stopped she had one of two choices, hit the car or slam on the breaks. She chose the latter (not that the former would resulted in anything different). Child went flying head first into the dashboard, neck broken.” [Edited for space]

•    Rene: “I was one of those stupid parents and have to live everyday with that choice...... I now know better!!!!!!”

There are many more tales of close calls and regrets from parents across the country. The message is not that parents are necessarily stupid, but that a small decision and habit- buckling up- can save lives.

We spoke to Donald Grant, Western Cape MEC for Transport and Public Works, who says:

“Research has shown that increased seat-belt compliance will mean thousands of lives saved, that would have otherwise been lost, in the horrific crashes that plague our roads. Failure to use a seat belt or appropriate restraint is a certain route to death or serious injury during collisions. When a motor vehicle crash occurs, the occupants who are not restrained continue to move forward at the same speed at which the vehicle was travelling before the collision. They are catapulted forward into the structure of the vehicle, into other occupants or hurled from the vehicle to almost certain death. This horror is experienced daily on our roads, and can be avoided by the simple act of BUCKLING UP.

Seat belts are important personal protection equipment. Like hard hats, safety glasses, and hard toe shoes in industry, seat belts help to decrease the severity of, or prevent, injuries when crashes occur. Wearing a seat-belt reduces the risk of fatal injury by 40-50% for drivers and front seat occupants and by up to 75% for rear seat occupants (WHO, 2013).

Children are the most tragic victims in these senseless deaths. Road fatalities are the greatest single cause of death in children under the age of 12, and most of them were not buckled up. In 2010, it was observed that 92% of back-seat passengers (including children) are not properly restrained. Buckling up is known to reduce the risk of death in passenger cars by up to 80% (Medical Research Council 2009: National Mortality Information Surveillance System 2008).

Parents must be responsible for their children in vehicles, as is required by the law. The law will also soon be amended to provide further legal protections for children, and penalties for parent where previously such may have not existed. We must collectively do all we can to ensure that children, as the more vulnerable road user group, is protected from serious injury or death sustained unnecessarily, in the horrific crashes we see on our roads.” Minister Donald Grant.

What are your seat belt stories?

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