No strap, no ride
What are people thinking of letting their kids travel unrestrained?
Allowing a child to travel in a car without being securely strapped in, is tantamount to giving him a loaded gun to play with. There's a good chance that child is going to end up dead.

Once or twice I've hooted and yelled out my car window (cringe) at adults strapped securely in their car seats, while their children jumped around in the back.

I've glared and shaken my head at others who've allowed their children to sit on their laps in the front of the car.

My subtle show of disapproval has done little more than elicit a rude gesture or blatant indifference.

My husband, Kenneth, has been a paramedic for almost 20 years. Too often, he's come home, devastated after picking a child's body up off a highway. He's seen children's brain matter on dashboards and windscreens.

Kenneth's comforted critically injured and frightened children, some of whom have ended up with permanent physical and mental damage. He's declared babies dead in front of their parents. These parents were almost always strapped into their car seats when their children weren't.

Getting children, especially toddlers, to stay put for any amount of time is a challenge. Strapping them into car chairs can be a nightmare.

My 3 children have learnt from birth that our car doesn't move, unless all seatbelts are buckled. They may never, ever, ride in the car without being restrained; not to the gate of our complex, not to our friends’ house two blocks away and certainly not to our local shopping centre.

Kenneth says many of the fatal accidents that he's responded to have happened close to the patient’s home.

Safety seats do work

Arrive Alive quotes several studies in the United States as saying 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 children between 1-4 years by up to 54%.

Child restraints and baby chairs:
* reduce the risk of being thrown about the car in the event of sudden braking or an accident
* prevent children from being ejected from the car
* stop children from moving around the car and distracting the driver.

According to Arrive Alive, the safest place to put your child is on the back seat. Never let him sit in the front, especially if you have airbags.

Child restraints are specifically designed to match a child's height and weight.

Birth - 1 year:
Use an appropriate baby chair and place it in the rear facing position, on the back seat. It's difficult to check on your baby if you can't see him, but there are some fantastic mirrors made specifically to allow you and your baby to see each other.

1-4 years:
An appropriate car chair, facing forward, should protect the child's head from frontal and side impact. Safety belts and harnesses should fit well and be properly positioned.

4-6 years:
Booster seats are best as they raise the child's seating position, allowing the safety belt to fit better.

6-11 years:
A booster seat helps a child who is still too small to use an adult safety belt properly.

There's a memorial next to one of Johannesburg's busy roads that always makes me catch my breath. It's a white cross, surrounded by white stones and flowers; a tribute to a little girl who died several years ago. That little girl was lying on the back seat of her mom's car. It was a quick trip down the road.

Do you have a zero tolerance strapping-in policy?
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