THE Zambia Road Safety Trust is urging parents to ensure that children are safely and securely restrained in a vehicle, even on the shortest trip. ZRST chairman Daniel Mwamba said traffic injuries remain one of the leading causes of premature deaths in Zambia. He said the sudden, often violent, death was all more tragic because it was premature: wiping out abruptly so many years of future happiness – not for them, but also for their families and friends. Mwamba said many of those road deaths for children could be prevented if parents took the extra time to make sure their children were in seatbelts and properly restrained.
“An observation study undertaken by the Zambia Road Safety Trust (ZRST) in Lusaka revealed an astonishing number of parents who allow their children to travel in cars without being restrained in seatbelts or properly restrained, placing their lives and safety at risk,” he said.
“According to the Zambia Police, over 1,598 children suffered serious traffic injuries in 2014 – that’s almost three children per day in preventable road accidents. The World Health Organisation (WHO) has established that if correctly installed, child car seats reduce infant deaths by 70 per cent and deaths among small children by 54 to 80 per cent.”
He said children were one of the most vulnerable people in society, and no parent or guardian would knowingly put a child’s life in danger.
“Why would you ever risk the life of such a precious gift that has been placed in your care? Not putting your child in a seatbelt is worse than horrifying and deserves to be classed as child abuse. Have you ever seen a car accident where the parents have minor injuries as they were in seatbelts yet their child has gone through the windscreen? This is so easily preventable and yet, many parents are all too apathetic to prevent the loss of a young life,” Mwamba said. “As we all know, some drivers do not drive the way they are supposed to and do not take as much care as you take when you’re driving. There is always someone who is not paying attention or changes his mind mid lane or “doesn’t see” a stop street or traffic light. This careless driver will hit you anytime.”
Mwamba said hospitals and clinics received traumas every day of children involved in car accidents, “sadly in which they were not in seatbelts, and are unfortunately killed.”
“People think it cannot happen to them. But it can happen to anyone. It is unthinkable, because these are deaths that shouldn’t occur if people would just place their children in the proper car seat and buckle them up with a seat belt. It is also known to be dangerous to hold a child on your lap. In an accident, the child could be crushed between your body and part of the car’s interior,” said Mwamba. “Even if you are using a safety belt, the child would be torn from your arms – you would not be able to hold onto them, no matter how hard you try. It is also dangerous to put a safety belt around yourself and a child (or around two children). The safest way for children to travel in cars is in a child seat that is suitable for their weight and height.”