Fines are not the answer for child car seat offenders

There’s an awareness campaign going around on Facebook called CarseatFullstop, which is designed to educate South African parents on the importance of having children under the age of 12 strapped into a car seat. The advantages? There’s more chance of your child surviving a collision if he or she is strapped into one. The cons – most certainly death.

That’s why it’s a no brainer for me that there are rules in place that say children under the age of three must be buckled up in these seats at all times during the car trip. I find it sad that campaigns like this need to be in place to even encourage this safety feature in the first place, but unfortunately it appears that it is sorely needed. I’ve often seen very young children moving around freely in the back seat and in some cases not even buckled up.

Besides the lack of awareness the problem is that that up until last year there weren’t any laws in place to protect kids and make parents buckle up their kids. The new law came into play in May 2015 and while CarseatFullstop is campaigning for children right up to age 12 to be buckled up in child seats it appears the law only obligates children up to the age of 3 to be buckled up in seats in South Africa.

According to reports, a parent can be fined between R200 and R500 for not having their child strapped into a car seat. I’m not sure I agree with this though as I don’t think it addresses the route cause of why a parent may not have their child in a seat. Money could be an issue. And if a parent then has to pay R500 for a fine and still pay to buy a car seat they will be even more out of pocket. Low income families will feel the pinch even more.

So surely there should rather be a rule introduced that would obligate the parent to purchase a car seat immediately than pay a R500 fine? Car seats are hellishly expensive. If you look at e-tailer, Takealot, for example, they start from about R1199 – new. I’d rather the City makes parents pay a ‘fine’ by making them pay for a car seat. If they don’t comply, then by all means, dish out a fine.

While I do have sympathy for parents who can’t afford new car seats I do agree with the ‘if you have a car, you can afford a car seat’ camp. There really is no excuse for not getting one. If you can’t afford it, there are some organisations and initiatives out there that can help.

NGO, Drive More Safely, gives free car seats away to the poor, for instance. Alternatively, you can buy second hand ones (provided they meet the legal specifications) on classified sites like Gumtree.

There’s also Wheel Well, a Section 21 organisation in Joburg that refurbishes old car seats, cleans them and and then donates them to families who really need them.

Child car seats are a once off investment and if it helps to protect your child then that makes it a necessity. There really should be no excuse. While you think rules impinge on your freedoms, sometimes they are there so that you don’t hurt yourself, or others.


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