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