Awareness

CELEBRATE MANDELA DAY WITH ROAD SAFETY FOR CHILDREN

CELEBRATE MANDELA DAY WITH ROAD SAFETY FOR CHILDREN.

July is the month when we celebrate the legacy of the great Nelson Mandela. Recognised by the United Nations, Mandela Day on 18 July – Nelson Mandela’s birthday. It is a call to action for acts of kindness and service to one’s community.

As the campaign message states:

“Mandela Day is an annual global celebration that takes place on 18 July to honour the life and legacy of Nelson Mandela. This day is a call to action for individuals, communities, and organisations to take time to reflect on Mandela’s values and principles and to make a positive impact in their communities.”

This year the Mandela Day campaign’s theme – #ItIsInYourHands – focuses primarily on sustainable food and climate change. But this sentiment applies to any individuals who wish to better their communities.

Nelson Mandela was also a fierce fighter for the rights of children – something that aligns with the ideals of Wheel Well itself. Thus we want to take this moment to talk about some of our current campaigns that improve the safety of children on the road.

Road-related deaths are the common cause of death for young people between the ages of 5-29 years. 90% of these deaths occur in developing countries, such as South Africa. Campaigns such as ours serve to mitigate these statistics by providing adults and children with information and tools to make good judgments when it comes to staying safe on our roads.

CAR SEATS FOR KIDS

Children from low-income families are three times more likely to face serious injury or death in car crashes. This is due to many families finding themselves unable to afford the proper restraints required to keep children safe in the event of a crash. Wheel Well’s Car Seats for Kids campaign aims to provide support for these families by offering them affordable car seat options through donations.

Wheel Well additionally offers a Car Seat 101 workshop and Car Seat Clinic for parents. These workshops focus on helping parents install, use and maintain car seats to ensure optimal safety.

To date, almost 11 000 children have benefited from this campaign.

How Can You Get Involved?

  • Do you have a spare car seat at home that your kids have long since outgrown? Why not donate it to a family in need? If you wish to donate a car seat in any condition, please contact Wheel Well.
  • For those who want to put their 67 minutes of kindness towards helping children, we are always looking for an extra set of hands to help with our car seat handout days.
  • Our Mandela Day Car Seat Handout will take place on 22 July 2023 at Supa Quick Fourways from 9am-12pm. Come visit us if you are currently looking for a car seat or need advice on seats and installation.

KIDS ON THE GO

While Car Seats for Kids focuses primarily on car seat safety, Kids On The Go sets its sights on creating awareness around the safe usage of child restraints and seat belts. We believe that all children have the right to be safely transported.

We encourage parents to ensure that their children make use of a Secure-A-Kid harness when using a vehicle. Seat belts are typically designed with adult body size in mind. However, the Secure-A-Kid harness easily adapts a regular 3-point seat belt to be more suited to safely restraining the small body of a child in a car crash. The small compact size means that children who take public transport can carry the harness in their school bags.

Our fight does not stop at restraint awareness for children and their parents. We also want to fight for better legislation to enforce road safety for children on a larger scale.

We currently propose the following changes to legislation:

  • All school-going children should be considered one person for the purpose of vehicle loading in school transport.
  • An approved child restraint must be used for children under 1.5m tall in all school transport

How Can You Get Involved?

  • Invite Wheel Well to give a talk at your child’s school on road safety and proper seat belt and restraint usage – for both children and parents.
  • Urge your child’s school to work with student public transport to try and improve seat belt or harness usage in their vehicles.
  • Invest in a Secure-A-Kid harness for your children and encourage them to make use of it.

GLOW KIDS GLOW

Many children in South Africa rely on walking to and from school. However, their small stature and impulsive nature puts them at great risk of getting struck by a car. Pedestrians in general are at great risk of this, especially during low light times of the day. 75% of pedestrian deaths caused by collisions occur at dawn, dusk and at night. Making use of reflective clothing can reduce the risk by 85%.

Young children are often smaller in height than the bonnet of a car, which puts them at great risk of not being visible to drivers.

In response to this problem, we have designed our reflective Hale Beanies as part of our Glow Kids Glow campaign. These beanies offer 360-degree reflective visibility while not being restrictive while children play.

How Can You Get Involved?

  • Are you an avid knitter or part of a knitting or crocheting group? We need you and your swift needles!

We will provide a “beanie pack” containing reflective yarn, wool in various colours, crochet hooks, knitting needles, patterns, instructions, and leaflets on the benefits of reflective gear. Each pack has materials to make 100 beanies, which we will then distribute to local communities through the Rotary Club of South Africa.

  • This is also a great project for school home economics/crafting classes, which in turn opens up a discussion on road and pedestrian safety awareness for children.
  • Should knitting not be in your skill set, sponsorship of beanie packs will go a long way to ensure that many children will enjoy the warmth and reflective safety of our Halo Beanies.

READING ROAD SAFETY – SPEAKING BOOKS

Road safety is a multi-faceted problem and should be tackled in a multitude of ways to ensure its efficacy. Speaking Books are a helpful tool in providing children with consistent and repetitive messages in a way that is engaging and appealing to them.

Each speaking book consists of 16 pages of colourful illustrations supported by a straightforward and easy-to-understand text. For each page, there is a corresponding push button that triggers a spoken recording of the text. No matter what the level of comprehension, the information will be seen, read, heard, and understood, resulting in a powerful and effective media combination.

As we do not want language to be a barrier to road safety, we aim to include mother tongue literacy as a byproduct of these books. This will allow children to learn lessons from these books in the language they are most familiar with.

How Can You Get Involved?

Speaking Books is a costly project whereby each print run of 1000 books costs R320,000. We are looking for companies or individuals who would be willing to sponsor this project, either for the full amount or in part.

Benefits to sponsors include:

  • Effective and contained spend of CSI funds.
  • 100% BEE
  • Branding and the back cover page for a message to the community.
  • Help reduce the death toll amongst our most vulnerable road users.

Please contact us if you would like more information on this project.

HOW ELSE CAN YOU HELP KEEP KIDS SAFE ON THE ROAD?

Start by setting a consistent and firm example of road safety for your children by driving lovingly and with their safety at the forefront. Talk to your children about the dangers of the road and repeatedly show them how to make safer judgements on or around the road.

If you are a parent or teacher looking to start the conversation on road safety with your kids, Wheel Well has several free downloadable infographics to help you.

For parents, we also offer information sheets that will help you choose the correct car seat for your child and other road safety.

Word of mouth is also a valuable tool for our campaigns. Please talk to your family and friends about how to keep children safe on the roads, as well as direct them to our website for more information.

If you would be interested in having Wheel Well come do a talk at your school, get in touch!

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CHILD RESTRAINTS: ROAD SAFETY AS A SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT GOAL

“A very important concern we feel that is missing from these goals is one specifically focusing on road safety.”

May 2023 brings us the United Nations & World Health Organization’s 7th Annual Road Safety Week. This year’s focus is on sustainable transport, promoting walking, cycling and the us of public transport. This is tangentially connected to the United  Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals. Yet, despite poor road safety being the leading cause of death in young people, the United Nations has not highlighted this important topic as a separate goal within its plan.

During the WHO & UN’s Road Safety Week, we wish to appeal to the United Nations to make road safety one of their Sustainable Development Goals. We believe that this is a fundamental human right in the modern age, as well as directly connected to many of the other goals they wish to resolve.

UNITED NATIONS’ SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT GOALS

In 2015, the United Nations set out 17 Sustainable Development Goals as part of a 15-year plan. The aim of this was a global call to action against socio-economic and ecological issues such as climate change, inequality, poverty and injustice.

These goals are as follows:
● Goal 1: No Poverty
● Goal 2: Zero Hunger
● Goal 3: Good Health & Well Being
● Goal 4: Quality Education
● Goal 5: Gender Equality
● Goal 6: Clean Water & Sanitation
● Goal 7: Affordable & Clean Energy
● Goal 8: Decent Work & Economic Growth
● Goal 9: Industry, Innovation & Infrastructure
● Goal 10: Reduced Inequalities
● Goal 11: Sustainable Cities & Communities
● Goal 12: Responsible Consumption & Production
● Goal 13: Climate Action
● Goal 14: Life Below Water
● Goal 15: Life on Land
● Goal 16: Peace, Justice & Strong Institutions
● Goal 17: Partnerships

With now less than 7 years remaining to meet these goals by 2030, the UN has called for a more “ambitious global effort”. They have appealed to governments, communities and businesses to mobilize as part of their Decade of Action campaign. From these goals, one can see how many would directly impact the others. Rather than addressing these goals as individual concerns, a complete restructuring and development of socio-economic and ecological systems is required. Each goal contributes to the improvement of the lives of everyone and thus all points should be tackled together due to their synergistic and intertwined nature.

A very important concern we feel that is missing from these goals is one specifically focusing on road safety.

ROAD SAFETY: AN IMPORTANT FACTOR IN SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT

To quote the World Health Organization, “Road traffic injuries are the leading cause of death for children and young adults aged 5–29”. A topical theme behind the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals, and many of their campaigns for future development, is the investment in future generations. To provide a better world for the children of tomorrow. Also, the intergenerational “passing of the baton” ensures that these goals continue to evolve as the world continues to change. It then becomes imperative that we counter the greatest threat to young people – greater than disease, natural disaster or famine. This becomes that much more relevant within the context of developing countries. These countries account for 93% of global road-related fatalities.

In developing countries, such as South Africa, socio-economic factors pose a barrier to effective road safety. Many of the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals share an intrinsic relationship with road safety. For example, poverty, available, accessible and safe public transport, and lack of quality education all directly contribute to the high rates of road-related injuries and deaths. Addressing the individual goals that contribute to these high rates would certainly lead to a decrease in these numbers. The issue of road safety should be addressed alongside these factors as its own separate goal.

The theme of the UN & WHO’s Global Road Safety Week is #RethinkMobility, which aims to address sustainable transport. They wish to emphasize walking, cycling and public transport. But overlooks the fact that in developing countries, without greater societal or economic reform, these goals feel idealistic.

In South Africa, factors such as poverty, high crime rates and lack of education alongside the drive for sustainable mobility, a push for people to make use of walking or cycling only increases the risk of road-related injuries. In a population of 61 million people, there are an estimated 12 million cars on the road in South Africa. Additionally, the rate of car ownership is currently in decline. This is especially true of younger adults, many of whom simply cannot afford to own and maintain a vehicle. Due to this, there is an increasing number of people who rely on walking, cycling and public transport to get from Point A to

Point B. When people resort to cycling or walking as a means to an end, rather than a conscious social effort, it is often done so in an environment that has not provided support that bolsters road safety measures – whether in the form of education or redesigning infrastructure. This can lead to an increase in the number of road-related injuries.

In South Africa, safe public transport is not widely available, leaving 68% of the country relying heavily on minibus taxi services. While this form of transport is the most widespread and affordable, these services are loosely regulated with many taxi operators not adhering to road safety standards or laws. Minibus taxis, generally with the capacity to legally carry 15 passengers, contribute heavily to cases of major crashes, in which five or more people die in a single crash. In addition to this, a large portion of taxi owners are affiliated with gangs and taxi violence remains a hot topic in South Africa, often putting drivers and passengers at risk of becoming victims of violent crime.

THE GLOBAL PLAN FOR ROAD SAFETY

Within the Decade of Action campaign, the UN & WHO have collaborated on a 2030 Global Plan For Road Safety. This plan seeks to improve road safety by addressing several factors. This includes efforts to implement urban planning that is conducive to public transport and pedestrians, safer road infrastructure, higher standards for safe vehicle design, safe road use and improved post-crash response. For developing countries, the plan aims to provide a special focus on low- and middle-income countries, which as highlighted above, is desperately needed. This plan, if actioned efficiently, could contribute to greater overall road safety. The UN & WHO have taken road safety under greater consideration in the past few years. However, this only demonstrates further reason for the inclusion of road safety as a pillar of the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals. Road safety, like many of the Goals listed, shares a link with the other highlighted goals – sometimes as a result of them, other times as a catalyst.

It is impossible to talk about road safety without the inclusion of wider socio-economic factors in the conversation. And to discuss the other goals without observing the impact that they have on road safety only results in turning a blind eye to an enormous risk to the well-being and lives of our young people. The same young people to whom we are entrusting to carry the torch for the future of our planet and global civilisation.

THE IMPACT ON ROAD SAFETY ACTIVISM

For NGOs and activists fighting for safer roads, including road safety within the Sustainable Development Goals rather than as a separate and isolated concern will allow our fight to be brought to a greater number of people, as it means inclusion in a much larger conversation. If it were framed as one facet of a multi-dimensional greater global problem, improvements in road safety would be further supported through activism aimed at tackling other goals. When engaging local governments and communities, if road safety was to be seen as a fundamental piece of the larger sustainability puzzle, this would give validity to activist campaigns for better road safety. This is especially true in developing countries where road safety might not be considered a high-priority concern on its own. Currently, road safety is ever so lightly touched upon under the UN’s Sustainable Development 11th Goal: Sustainable Cities & Communities. The problem with this is that it prioritises road safety within the context of those living within cities. However, in doing so, it ignores the plight of those living in rural areas – a percentage of the population that is far greater in developing countries. We would argue that these are the communities that would benefit most from improved efforts and awareness relating to road safety.

Sustainable Cities also focuses more on the negative impact of vehicles on the road in terms of pollution, but little addresses the direct impact of lacking road safety itself. In trying to find information on road safety within the Sustainable Development Goals, it should be noted that information on this was incredibly hard to find. This is a recurring problem we often run into when it comes to information regarding road safety. The first step in awareness and education should begin with the availability of information.

Allowing for the topic of road safety to be elevated to the same level of prominence as other pillars of the 2030 Sustainable Development Goals will have numerous benefits. For road safety NGOs & activist groups, this would allow for a more accessible transfer of information, a point of reference, and greater awareness. These are fundamental elements when enacting change and securing the necessary funding to facilitate said changes. Furthermore, in order to secure funding from corporate companies as their avenue for Corporate Social Investment, the inclusion of road safety as its own dedicated pillar will allow for NGOs to connect with companies who have a direct interest in road safety. These interests can include logistics, the motoring industry, petroleum and so on. Companies will more likely invest in a cause that is beneficial to them and speaks directly to their needs, but also causes that are regarded with importance on a grander scale in order to be impactful.

For more information on how you can donate to Wheel Well, please contact us here.

7th UN Road Safety Week takes place 15th-21st May 2023.

CHILD RESTRAINTS: ROAD SAFETY AS A SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT GOAL Read More »

Car Seat Safety & Childhood Obesity

“Parents ultimately want the same thing for their children, regardless of their size – for them to be safe.” 

The topic of obesity is a divisive conversation, more so when it concerns childhood obesity. There are many contributors to obesity in children, whether it be the result of socio-economic factors, lack of education relating to health and exercise, or else due to physical or mental health struggles. Our aim in talking about this sensitive topic is not to cast judgement. We only wish to highlight what limitations parents may face when looking for a suitable car seat for their bigger child.

It is worth noting that this is not limited exclusively to overweight children. A severely underweight child would face similar struggles. Car seats are designed around the different developmental stages of a child within a certain weight and age range. When a child is larger or smaller than the average weight at that age, parents may feel inclined to use a car seat that will accommodate their size. But this may place them in a seat that is not suitable for the developmental needs of their age. For children who are at a car seat using age, issues relating to obesity are far more prevalent (and on the rise) than cases where a child is underweight.

For this reason, we are focusing predominantly on child obesity in this article. We want to focus on challenges parents may face, as well as how to navigate these challenges. We aim to approach this delicate topic with kindness which is often overlooked when discussing obesity. Parents ultimately want the same thing for their children, regardless of their size – for them to be safe.

Correct Car Seats for Each Developmental Stage.

A happy baby being strapped into a car seat

We recently posted an article on how to choose the correct car seat for your child’s weight, age & stage of development.

To reiterate, there are three main types of car seats: infant, toddler and booster seats. The design of these car seats caters to the needs of a child at specific developmental stages but within certain age and weight ranges.

For example, an infant seat is designed in a way that it is capable of cradling your baby. This would protect their delicate head, spine and pelvis in the event of a car crash. When a child reaches a specific weight or age milestone (whichever occurs first) for their next type of car seat, this is an indicator that they are – generally speaking – ready to transition.

Weight and age as indicators for different stages of child development work for the majority of children. But what if a child is atypical in their size? Whether they are too small, too tall or too large in comparison to other kids their age, this poses several challenges when it comes to car seats. Children who are overweight or obese face the greatest challenges in this regard.

Challenges Regarding Car Seat Safety & Children Who Are Overweight.

We often see parents tempted to prematurely move their children to the next stage of their car seat. This is far more common when a child is bigger than average. Despite their size, they still need the correct protection for their developmental stage. Obesity in children is ever increasing – in the US this accounts for more than a quarter of children. As a result, manufacturers of car seats have started designing car seats that are better able to accommodate larger children.

Challenges parents may face when using a car seat that their child has outsized:

  • Improper restraint:
    Overweight children are likely to outgrow their seats faster than their developmental growth.
    This would result in a child not being restrained in a way that is effectively safe for their developmental stage, leading to an increased chance of injury in a car crash.
  • Discomfort:
    Overweight children restrained in a car seat that they are too large for will experience discomfort. This will make them less inclined to stay safely put in their seat, resulting in them likely trying to wiggle out or else fight against their car seat. Not only is this stressful for both parent and child but if they end up incorrectly positioned in their seat, they will not be safely protected in a car crash. Incorrect positioning in a car seat can increase the severity of the injury.
  • Seat Belt Positioning:
    Seat belt positioning plays a vital role in safely restraining your child in a car crash. Correct
    positioning should allow seat belts to cross a child’s upper body from the shoulder across to the hip, as well as across their lap. Large children may struggle to find a comfortable fit with a seatbelt, resulting in incorrect seat belt positioning.
  • Increased Risk of Injury During Emergency Braking:
    In a car crash, weight plays a huge part in which the force at which a person is thrown forward. In the design of infant car seats, their disproportionately larger heads must be accounted for when considering the momentum of the impact of a car crash. Children who are overweight are thrown with greater force with the impact of a car crash. This means that they are far more susceptible to greater risk of injury, as well as more likely to sustain more severe injuries. It is vitally important that their car seat is capable of keeping them restrained safely in a way that is appropriate and accommodating for their size.
  • Difficulties with Rear-Facing Car Seats:
    Rear-facing a car seat is recommended up until a child is 15 months old. As most car crashes result in forward or sideways impact, a rear-facing car seat provides the necessary support for a young child’s fragile head, neck and spine. For a child who is overweight, rear-facing up until 15 months may not be possible or else may lead to discomfort and agitation. In this scenario, parents may be more inclined towards prematurely transitioning to a forward-facing seat. Yet, transitioning them to a bigger seat too soon would forego the safety measures covered by rear-facing their car seat.

What Are The Solutions?

a crochet toy lamb sitting in a blue car seat

  • Choose A Car Seat That is Suitable for Your Child’s Size:
    The safest car seat is a seat that best accommodates your child at their correct developmental stage. For large children, a standard car seat might not be suitable. Parents are recommended to find a car seat that has a higher upper weight limit.
  • Ensure Seat Belt/Harness Fits Correctly:
    To minimise discomfort and risk of injury, ensure that your child is safely restrained, with a correctly positioned seat belt or harness. The straps should cross the upper body from the shoulder (away from their neck), and across their lap (not their stomach). The straps should securely restrain them without being too tight and causing discomfort.
  • Consistency With Car Seat Usage:
    Children who are overweight may be more inclined towards throwing a fuss about being restrained in a car seat. Larger children are more susceptible to experiencing car seat discomfort. As with all children who initially resist their car seats, consistency is the key to acclimatising them to being restrained. If they are struggling to get used to a seat, especially during transitional phases, it is worth investigating whether they are experiencing extreme discomfort from their car seat. This indicates that they require a seat that will be more accommodating to their body.
  • Proper Car Seat Installation:
    Correct car seat installation is another vital factor in the efficacy of a car seat. It is important for children of every size. Due to children who are obese having greater weight behind their momentum in a car crash, it is additionally important that their car seat is installed according to the manufacturer’s guidelines.
  • Encourage A Healthy Lifestyle:
    More and more families struggle to maintain balance in their lives due to social and economic pressures. When dealing with these struggles, we are often guilty of sacrificing physical and mental health before anything else. It is important that, where physically possible, children are encouraged to eat healthily and have access to regular exercise. Excessive unhealthy/sugary foods and screen time can lead to lifelong health problems. Many children start struggling with obesity before even reaching a school-going age. This has a long-term impact on their physical development.

Car Seats for Bigger Kids!

a chubby baby peaking their head out from under a fluffy blanket

If you feel like your child may require a bigger car seat and don’t know where to start, here are some of our recommendations:

  • Safeway Polar (0-36kg/infant-Booster Group): this car seat is suitable as a hybrid multi-stage car seat across infant, toddler and booster seat stages. It allows for rear-facing up to 18kg. With an internal harness, this seat can be used in the forward-facing position up to 25kg. It can be used as a booster seat till your child in ready for the seatbelt at 1.5m tall.
  • Chicco Sirio 012 Air (0-25kg/Infant-Toddler Group): with the use of a 5-point harness, this car seat is able to accommodate children up to 25kg. It also features soft belt pads and cushioning for additional comfort. Important to note that the seat only rear faces to 13kgs so might not be suitable for bigger kids that are under 15months as they would need to forward face before developmentally ready.
  • BeSafe IZi Plus X1 – Rear Facing (0-25kg/Infant-Toddler Group): For parents who want to rear-face their car seat for as long as they can, this car seat can harness up to 25kg and  is an option for rear facing up to approximately 5 years of age.

For more information on choosing the correct car seat, please refer to our easy-to-read infographics here. If you require assistance with finding a good fit for a larger child or need help with the correct installation, please contact Wheel Well or visit our showroom.

Car Seat Safety & Childhood Obesity Read More »

A child reaches into a strangers car. The stranger is holding out candy.

Kidnapping on the rise in South Africa

"...as times become more desperate, and criminals more bold, any person has the potential to become a victim." 

Daily life in South Africa is becoming increasingly more difficult. On top of the hardships that come with a struggling economy and loadshedding, there is another concern for South Africans to worry about. Kidnapping is on the rise in South Africa.

This follows an alarming trend observed during 2022. An August 2022 article from IOL stated that in 2022 kidnappings increased by 59%, while hijacking was up by 14%. In South Africa, there is a correlation between these two crimes, with 42% of kidnapping cases linked to hijackings. Kidnapping for ransom and extortion only makes up 5% of kidnapping cases in South Africa.

When it comes to crimes of this nature, the belief is that “It won’t happen to me”. But as times become more desperate, and criminals more bold, any person has the potential to become a victim. These days, having something as commonplace as a cell phone on you (and let’s be honest, that’s almost all of us) is enough to pique a kidnapper’s interest.

WHO IS BEING TARGETED?

A woman in distress holds out her hand, as if pushing someone away.

In January 2023, the South African Police Service arrested 6 suspects believed to be part of a kidnapping syndicate in Gauteng. This syndicate is linked to 16 kidnapping cases. Police were thankfully able to rescue a businessman who had been kidnapped by the syndicate. During the arrest, five high performance cars, 20 cellphones and 30 GPS devices were also seized.

In the same month, four suspects from Fordsburg were accused of luring a businessman from India. They kidnapped him and extorted money from his family for his safe return.

With the rise in kidnapping cases, Gauteng is now labeled as a kidnapping hotspot. But the rest of the country does not remain unaffected. In August 2022, a six-year-old boy was kidnapped from his home in Cape Town, which was also only 400m from the Hidayatul Islam Primary School he attended. The young boy was safely returned but this highlights the fact that targets are no longer wealthy businessmen. In fact, the boy was not from a wealthy family – his father worked part-time assisting his ill brother-in-law run his small business.

In all three cases, the victims were fortunate in that they were safely returned to their families. But the scary reality is that there are many cases in which kidnappers did not release their victims, instead killing them once they were done.

Police find themselves scrambling to curtail the number of kidnapping incidents. But with insufficient police resources to stop the increase in cases, this is likely a threat that will remain prevalent for some time. How can individuals take preventative measures to avoid becoming the next kidnapping victim?

HOW TO AVOID KIDNAPPING

1. Be aware of your surroundings
Remain vigilant of any suspicious people or movements around you. If you get the sense of something being amiss, get to a place of safety or leave the area as fast as possible. Avoid distractions such as cellphones or music that may hinder your awareness.

2. Lock your car doors
It is good practice to keep car doors locked at all times, but this is especially important while driving in unknown or high risk areas. Caution should also be exercised at intersections. Criminals may use the stopped flow of traffic to their advantage, using it to limit your chance of escape. At intersections, keep windows rolled up.

3. Complete driver safety training
A driver safety program can help improve driving behavior in order to drive more safely. Some driving programs specifically offer training for hijacking avoidance. This can help drivers identify and avoid potential hijackings, protecting themselves and their families.

4. Change your daily travel routes
Routes taken often, such as routes to work or school, should be varied. This makes it harder for criminals to predict your movements. Taking different routes will also allow for less chance of them becoming familiar with your vehicle.

5. Inform someone of your journey
When walking or driving through unfamiliar or high-risk areas, notify someone of your journey. Let them know when you leave, as well as arrive safely at your destination. Sending a live location notification to someone will also allow them to see your location in real-time. Live location tracking will allow them to notice if something seems out of the ordinary.

2 women talking outside a corporate building. They are wearing warm beige coats.

6. Keep valuables hidden

Any items that may show wealth, even just a cellphone, should be hidden from view so as not to entice criminals.

7. Take caution leaving and entering your property
When entering or leaving your home via garage or electric gate, be vigilant of suspicious people or vehicles in your street. Criminals may block your vehicle or gate, cornering you in your driveway. Never leave garage doors or gates open longer than necessary.

8. Teach children code words
Give your children a code word. If anyone claims to be picking them up from school on your behalf, your children can verify this by asking them for the code word. Children should also be taught not to wander from safe areas, such as leaving school property. If they encounter a person they think is not safe, it is also important that they know to inform an adult as well.

9. Use trusted transportation
Never get into a vehicle of a person you do not know. If making use of an Uber, match the number plates to those stated by the app. Also enquire who they are picking up to verify that they are there for you.

10. Stay informed
With kidnapping on the rise, it is worthwhile to keep up to date on criminal activity. This is especially important in areas considered to be high-risk for kidnapping. Knowing the risks can help you minimise the chance of becoming a victim.

11. Report suspicious activity
If you see or experience something that may indicate a potential kidnapping, inform authorities immediately. If you have been kidnapped or an attempt was made, it is vitally important that it is reported to police. Many kidnapping victims do not go to the police out of fear of the kidnappers. This allows for kidnapping syndicates to continue their operations.

A child reaches into a strangers car. The stranger is holding out candy.

"...the best approach is prevention." 

When it comes to kidnapping, the best approach is prevention. Anyone has the potential to become a kidnapping victim, especially in times where more and more people become desperate under a failing economy. Being aware, taking extra precautions and keeping yourself informed can reduce the chances of you or your family falling victim to these crimes.

Kidnapping on the rise in South Africa Read More »

Equal Partnership in Parenting: How Fathers Can Step Up to Ensure Car Seat Safety for Their Children

Car seats are an essential tool for parents when it comes to keeping their children safe while traveling in a vehicle. However, the responsibility of ensuring that car seats are correctly installed and used often falls on the mother. This burden can create stress and exhaustion for mothers, who may feel unsupported and overwhelmed. Fathers can step up to the plate and share the responsibility of car seat safety, and here is why and how.

"Fathers can step up to the plate and share the responsibility of car seat safety..." 

Why Fathers Should Step Up:

  1. Equal Partnership: Parenting is a partnership between both parents, and both should share in the responsibilities of caring for their children. By sharing the responsibility of car seat safety, fathers can establish an equal partnership with their partners in raising their children.

  2. Bonding Opportunity: Fathers can use the time spent installing and using car seats to bond with their children. Fathers who are actively involved in their children’s lives, including car seat safety, can form a strong and loving bond with their children.

  3. It’s the Law: Car seat safety is not optional. South African law requires children to be secured in a car seat up to 3 years old, thereafter it is best practice to keep your children safe whilst traveling in a vehicle. By stepping up, fathers can ensure their children’s safety and avoid legal consequences.

How Fathers Can Step Up:

  1. Educate Themselves: Fathers can start by educating themselves on car seat safety. They can read the car seat manual, watch online tutorials, and attend classes on car seat installation and use. This knowledge will enable them to understand the importance of proper installation and usage and give them the confidence to handle it independently.
  2. Take Initiative: Fathers can take the initiative to install and use the car seat. They can take charge of the process and offer to do it themselves, even if their partner has always done it before. This willingness to take charge will make their partner feel supported and valued.
  3. Share the Responsibility: Fathers can share the responsibility of car seat safety with their partner by offering to take turns installing and using the car seat. By doing so, both parents can feel supported and avoid feeling overwhelmed. This can also help fathers gain confidence in car seat safety and become more familiar with the installation process. By sharing the responsibility, fathers can establish a partnership with their partner and demonstrate their commitment to their child’s safety.
  4. Make it a Routine: Fathers can make car seat safety a routine and ensure that the car seat is installed and correctly used every time they travel with their children. By making it a routine, fathers can establish a habit of taking responsibility for car seat safety, making it a part of their regular parenting duties.
  5. Research and Discuss Options: Fathers can research and discuss car seat options with their partners to choose the right one for their child. They can compare features, read reviews, and consider their child’s age, weight, and height to ensure they select the appropriate car seat.
By being involved in the decision-making process, fathers can demonstrate their commitment to
their child’s safety and well-being.

"By being involved in the decision-making process, fathers can demonstrate their commitment to their child's safety and well-being."

Equal Partnership in Parenting: How Fathers Can Step Up to Ensure Car Seat Safety for Their Children Read More »

2 people leaning on the bonnet of a red car, making a heart with their hands. We are behind them, and they are looking at a sunset over the beach.

Road Safety and Driving Lovingly

"Children see - children do." 

Parents have a duty to set a good example for their children. When we drive lovingly, we instill the message that safety is an expression of our love for them. We communicate this by teaching them road safety rules, but also by consistently upholding high safety standards, ourselves. To drive lovingly is not only to do so on our good parenting days. It is still important on days when our toddler fights against their car seat, when it feels inconvenient, or when your
destination is “just around the corner”.

SET A GOOD EXAMPLE FOR ROAD SAFETY

Family crossing the road. Mom and Dad are on each side of their child, holding their hand and looking for danger as they cross.

Children learn a lot through observation. When we obey the laws and rules of the road – inside of a vehicle and out – we set both a standard and an attitude for our children.

Inconsistency in following rules, as well as the dismissal of them only serves to diminish the importance of these rules. For example, only wearing a seatbelt in some situations and not others undermine the purpose of this rule. This is true for other rules as well. Repetition and consistency of rules in and around vehicles is an effective way of teaching road safety. It minimises the chance that your child will become injured or killed in a road-related incident.

Also, controlling our emotions and the way we react to other drivers on the road is equally important. It sets in place the fundamental building blocks of creating both respect and awareness of others on the road.

BE IN THE KNOW

Mom sipping hot chocolate with her child in her lap. She is looking at her laptop.

When it comes to ensuring your children are safe, it is important that as parents we are equipped with the correct information. This allows us to make educated decisions relating to our children’s safety on the road. This ranges from familiarity with road safety laws to choosing the correct size car seat.

Many organisations, such as Wheel Well, exist to help parents in becoming informed on the topic of road safety for children. They also offer resources to guide you through aspects of road safety that you had perhaps not even considered.

BE PRESENT WHILE DRIVING

Nowadays we live in a world that is constantly fighting for our attention in many ways. This is also true while driving. Between mobile phone notifications, setting a route on your GPS or talking to passengers in the car, losing focus for a second could result in a car crash. Distractions while driving are one of the greatest contributors to car crashes.

Texting while driving accounts for almost 25% of all car crashes in South Africa. This is a greater contributor to car crashes than driving drunk. Yet many people are quick to casually dismiss the risk in an age of fast communication.

Drunk driving and driving while fatigued are also huge contributors to car crashes. We are responsible for the passengers whom we carry in our vehicle. Our responsibility to them and other users on the road is to ensure we are in a clear and focused state of mind before getting behind the wheel.

SAFER VEHICLES, SAFER PASSENGERS

In a tough economy, many people find themselves under immense financial pressure. Many must make adjustments to their lives to try and stretch each paycheck further. It may be tempting to put off vehicle maintenance and tyre changes which often come at a significant cost. But compromising safety should never be an option. This is especially true within the context of road safety, where the consequences can be fatal.

Other drivers may feel that although routine maintenance is due, it may seem that the vehicle could keep going a little bit longer. Yet routine maintenance allows for circumvention and prevention of potential risks or weaknesses. Maintenance stops smaller problems from progressing to bigger, life-threatening problems.

DRIVE LOVINGLY FOR EVERYONE

2 people leaning on the bonnet of a red car, making a heart with their hands. We are behind them, and they are looking at a sunset over the beach.

Observing road safety is not just to keep us and our families safe on the roads, but others as well. Defensive driving, with respect for other users on the road, means that all cars can navigate our roads with as few risks as possible.

When driving in residential areas or near schools, it is important to drive at a speed and with awareness of child pedestrians. as well as their often unpredictable nature. With much smaller bodies and impulsive nature, they are less visible on and around roads compared to adults. Extra precautions should be taken when driving in areas where there are children present. Around schools, it is best practice to drive no faster than 30km/hr.

When driving with other children who are not your own, ensure you offer them the same safety precautions as you would your children. Safe driving, while being present and the children correctly restrained. Road safety is a human right that must be afforded to all children.

While we highlight this during February’s “Month of Love”, driving lovingly should be an attitude to adopt for all months. Your children may be too young to understand the whys and hows of road safety.

But our attitudes and behaviours will cement the importance of road safety in their young minds. And a toddler car seat tantrum today is something your child will look back upon in the future. They will know you upheld these standards, set these rules and restrained them in this way because you care for them.

They will know it was out of your love for them.

Road Safety and Driving Lovingly Read More »

A young girl being strapped into her booster seat. Her older sister straps herself in with a seatbelt, without a booster seat.

Choosing the correct car seat for your child.

"How do I choose the right car seat for my child?" 

When it comes to road safety for children, using a car seat is mandatory for children up to 3 years old. After that it is up to you to ensure the safety of your child. Car seats will reduce the risk of injury and death in the event of a car crash. But it is important that when choosing a new car seat, it is both appropriate for your child’s age and weight.

Correct installation is just as important. Not meeting these requirements will put your child at risk – so how do you go about choosing the right car seat? Children transition from one type of car seat to the next once they reach a certain weight or age milestone. Weight and age are taken into consideration in relation to the size and developmental requirements of a child.

For example, a baby’s skull, spine, and pelvis are less developed than those of an older child, making them more susceptible to injury. The design of an infant seat specifically protects their smaller and more fragile bodies.

We cannot express enough the importance of a correct weight- and age-appropriate car seat for your child. 

"We cannot express enough the importance of a correct weight- and age-appropriate car seat for your child."

The wrong car seat for your child’s weight and age requirements could cause a higher chance of injury or death. The car seat would not be able to sufficiently protect them in the way that it is intended at that specific stage of a child’s development. There is a wealth of different seats and sizes on the market. Deciding which is the best car seat for a child’s needs may be a difficult task for parents. Parents need to equip themselves with the appropriate knowledge to make an informed decision when purchasing a car seat. There are three main types of car seats for children: infant, toddler and booster seats. Let us break this down for you so that you can choose your next car seat with confidence.

INFANT CAR SEATS

A bright-eyed baby sits comfortably and safely in an infant car seat. The seat is rear-facing

An infant seat will protect your child from birth until 15 months (or up until 13kg). Infant seats take into account that babies have a larger head in proportion to their bodies. This means that in a car crash, a baby’s head will throw forward or sideways with greater relative force than that of an adult. Thus the design of infant seats is made to protect their heads and necks at this stage of development.

Besides safety, infant seats are also designed to support sleeping babies. Infant seats are also easier to take out of a vehicle, doubling as a rocker or feeding chair. When your baby reaches 6 months, their weight at that age will help you to determine the trajectory of their development. From this you can preempt when they will likely need to transition to a toddler seat. Parents can measure this developmental path using Wheel Well’s Weight-For-Age Chart for boys and girls.
Other factors to keep in mind when determining when to change from an infant seat to a toddler seat:

  • Do you want to rear-face your car seat after 15 months?
  • Does your vehicle have space limitations?
  • What is your budget for a new car seat?
  • Will you be installing the car seat by seat belts or Isofix installation?

Isofix is a car seat anchorage system built into cars at the manufacturing level. With the diversity in vehicle design, not all car seats are capable of universal installation in all cars. The introduction of Isofix allowed for a universal car seat anchorage system. This creates a standardised installation system for most car seats across board. Isofix also offers an easier installation method, compared to seat belt installation. Some vehicles may not have Isofix installed, so a 3-point safety belt installation of a car seat will suffice. Note that installing a car seat using this method is more complicated, so special attention should be given to correct and safe installation. Consult your manual for all your installation guidelines.

TODDLER CAR SEATS

A mother checks the tension in their toddler's car seat, making sure that it is sitting securely.

Toddler seats are designed for children who have reached 9kg, 75cm or 15 months. A toddler seat is suitable up until children reach 18kg, 105cm or 4 years old. A rear-facing seat installed in the backseat is the preferable choice, but after 15 months, a forward-facing seat is also acceptable.

"Rear-facing a toddler seat on the back seat of a vehicle is safer than forward-facing."

Rear-facing a toddler seat on the back seat of a vehicle is safer than forward-facing. Rear-facing in the event of a head-on or side collision means that the backrest of the car seat provides better support against the momentum of a car crash. This is safer than being thrown against the car seat harness, in the case of a forward-facing car seat.

Some parents may feel prematurely inclined to move their children to a booster seat. It is important to keep using an age-/weight-appropriate car seat for as long as possible without going over the safety limits of weight or age. As car seats accommodate the different developmental stages of a young child, progressing to the next car seat too early could prove dangerous to your child.

BOOSTER CAR SEATS

A young boy smiles at the camera. He is correctly strapped into a red booster seat.

Once your child reaches 4 years old or 18kg (15kg is the absolute minimum for tall, slim children), they are ready to transition to a booster seat. A booster seat will accommodate them until they are big enough to safely use the vehicle’s seat belts. For young children, booster seats provide side-impact protection.

This reduces the chance of neck and spine injuries. When using a booster seat, belts must be correctly positioned. The shoulder belt must pass across the chest, while the lap belt must fasten across the lap or hips, not the stomach. Children may protest against being restrained, but the wrong placement of belts can have dire consequences in a car crash.

Once your child reaches 10 years old, they are old enough to use a seatbelt, provided they meet the following conditions:

  • Your child can sit with their back against the backrest of the seat.
  • Their knees should bend comfortably over the edge of the seat, while their back remains against the backrest.
  • The shoulder belt is able to cross the chest from the middle of the shoulder, away from their neck.

     

  • The lap belt securely crosses their lap away from their stomach.
  • They are able to comfortably maintain this position for the full car ride.

MULTI-STAGE CAR SEATS

A parent reaches to pick up their infant from a multi-stage car seat.
Multi-stage car seats for children are convenient in that it allows them to use the same seat for longer. There are a few things to consider when deciding whether a multi-stage car seat is right for you and your child:

    • Starting with a car seat specifically designed for the infant stage of your child’s development is safer. Some parents may choose to use a multi-stage car seat from birth as it better suits their needs
    • For infants, ensure that the car seat is both rear facing and that the back of the seat is at a 45- degree angle to the horizontal. This angle allows the car seat to safely cradle a newborn baby in the event of a car crash.
    • Ensure that there is enough space for your newborn, as well as the harness positioning so that it’s both safe and comfortable.
    • Parents should understand the weight and age limits of the rear-facing a car seat, as well as the installation method at each stage.

    • Make sure that your vehicle has space to accommodate a multi-stage car seat. Install the car seat in both orientations at the maximum extension of each to ensure that it fits.

THE GOLDEN RULES FOR CAR SEATS

A child sits in a booster seat in a store. Her mom is with her, checking that the seat is the correct size for her.
Whichever car seat you opt for, the following points must be met:

  • Up until 3 years old, a child must use a car seat. This is mandatory by law.

  • Children must be rear-facing up until 15 months.

  • Children must use a harness up until the age of 4 years old.

  • Children must use a booster seat until they are seat belt ready.

  • Make sure that your vehicle has space to accommodate a multi-stage car seat. Install the car seat in both orientations at the maximum extension of each to ensure that it fits.

Hopefully, this has given you the confidence to make the right choice when purchasing your next car seat.

If you feel that you have further questions or need help with installation, please contact Wheel Well. Parents may also visit our showroom in Randburg or attend one of our car seat handout days. At Wheel Well, it is important to us that all children are safe on our roads.

Choosing the correct car seat for your child. Read More »

Road Safety Is A Human Right for Children

Road safety us a human right for children. As parents, we always seek to do what is best for our children. However, even parents who may think of themselves as responsible may be guilty of taking a relaxed stance and cutting corners when it comes to ensuring that their children are safe on the road, whether that be within a vehicle or as a pedestrian. On 21 March, as we celebrate Human Rights Day, let us acknowledge that road safety for our children is not just a parental duty, but a basic Human Right owed to them.

In 2020, a year during which there was a decrease in the number of vehicles on the road on account of the pandemic, a staggering 2858 children lost their lives on the road in South Africa. In a 2018 report by the World Health Organization, traffic-related incidents are now the leading cause of death in people aged 5-29 years old, with the highest numbers seen in developing countries. As it stands, South African roads are some of the most dangerous in the world. 

"As it stands, South African roads are some of the most dangerous in the world." 

When considering the risks involved, we must equip ourselves with the required knowledge for us to effectively protect our children. It is not just our duty as parents, but our child’s human right to safety. As we teach and guide them through life’s many lessons, it is vitally important that road and car safety forms part of their fundamental knowledge. As we occasionally rely on others to care for our children too, we need to instill in our children safety-first behavior so that even when they are away from us, they uphold a safety standard in and around vehicles. For these reasons, parents need to lead by example. Many of us are guilty of slipping into complacency, or having confidence in our driving skills while overlooking the fact that many crashes are caused by other drivers on the road whom we have no control over. At some point, I think we have all been there, but this is a call for you to do better for your children. Live by the standard that you wish to impart on them.

As parents, consistency is key in keeping our children safe. Regardless of the length of the trip, perceived safety and familiarity of a regularly driven route or the frustration of trying to wrestle a fussy toddler into a car seat, protecting our children should always be our number one priority.

However, to reiterate some of the important points:

  • Because vehicles are built for adults, to ensure the safety of our children, at the very least, they should always wear a seatbelt. However, seatbelts are designed for adults therefore a car seat or else seatbelt restraint that is suitable to their size will make riding in a vehicle that much safer for them.
  • Children should never be seated on an adult’s lap, as this is incredibly dangerous. In a car crash, an adult body can easily crush that of a child
  • From a young age, teach them precautions as a pedestrian – looking right and left before, holding an adult’s hand to cross the road, staying on the sidewalk safely out of the road, how to use zebra crossings, and so on. This will not only keep them safe but will also create an awareness of the movement of traffic. As they get older, reinforced road safety rules will become second nature to them, allowing them to make judgements carefully.
  • If your child walks to and from school, high-visibility clothing will make them more noticeable to drivers. Find out if any older children walk the same route and perhaps even organise for children to walk together as a group.
  • Regularly discussing road safety with your children will not only remind them of road safety rules but will also serve as a reminder to us as parents that we must lead by example and with consistency. Educational tools could help facilitate the discussion, such as interactive speaking books which help to engage young minds.

Children, and especially those who are younger, cannot comprehend the potential risks of vehicles and traffic, therefore their safety in this regard is our responsibility. While we can provide them with knowledge and tools that can help them understand and avoid risks, ultimately their safety is our parental obligation to them and it should never be left in their hands. We owe our children safety and protection, both as parents but also as fellow – infinitely more vulnerable – human beings who deserve, and have a right, to a long, happy and safe life

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