New car seat law effective 1 May

May 1st, 2015
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By Nomfundo Manyathi-Jele

Parents who do not strap their children under the age of three into a car seat will, from 1 May, be issued with a traffic fine.

This is according to a new regulation introduced by Transport Minister, Dipuo Peters, to the National Road Traffic Act 93 of 1996 which seeks to protect children.

A series of amendments to the regulations were first announced and published in the Government Gazette on 31 October 2014 (GN R846 GG38142/31-10-2014). According to the Transport Department, this would have allowed enough time for motorists to acquire the necessary car seat equipment.

This new law is an amendment to reg 213 of the regulations, which will be amended by first stating who an infant is (‘an infant is a person below the age of three years’) and the insertion of the following subregulation after subreg (6):

‘(6A) The driver of a motor vehicle operated on a public road shall ensure that an infant travelling in such a motor vehicle is seated on an appropriate child restraint: Provided that this provision shall not apply in a case of a minibus, midibus or bus operating for reward’.

The previous regulation merely stated:

‘(6) The driver of a motor vehicle operated on a public road shall ensure that a child seated on a seat of the motor vehicle –

(a) where it is available in the motor vehicle, uses an appropriate child restraint; or

(b) if no child restraint is available, wears the seatbelt if an unoccupied seat which is fitted with a seatbelt is available.’

Before 1 May, there was no penalty for motorists who were travelling with children under the age of three years, not in a baby seat with the seat belt on.

Government will be relying on traffic officers to enforce this new regulation especially during roadblocks.

The new law has generally been welcomed by parents although some say that their children do not like being restrained in a car seat and cry uncontrollably until they reach their destination.

To view all the amendments to the Act, go to www.gov.za

De Rebus asked a few parents what they thought of the new law.

Patience Ngubane: ‘I believe the new law is a good thing. We have reckless drivers on our roads and cannot predict the driving of other motorists, look at all the drunken driving cases that we read about. The moment an accident happens what will happen to the child if they not buckled up? That child is smashed through the window or windscreen and thrown out the car. Our kids are not always controllable so if we buckle them up there will be no opening of car doors while the car is in motion and the parent cannot be disturbed while driving such as them wanting to change gears, or touch the steering wheel etcetera. Yes, I am for this new law.’

Lauren Freitag: ‘As a parent I am very pleased that there is a law protecting our children and their safety. It should be both a law, and made common practice that children should be in a car seat and buckled up. Our children are very precious cargo that travel on our not-sosafe-roads these days’.

Gad Ginindza: ‘Personally I think it should not carry a fine because with kids you sometimes have situations that are beyond your control, causing a child to be unbuckled. It is in our best interests to keep our kids safe, so no parent will leave a child unbuckled unless they absolutely have to.

Kira Mc Allister: ‘I think until your child is stable enough to sustain an accident of any type in a grown up chair with a safety belt on, they should remain in the car chair. Car chairs are not accessories, they save lives. Mothers who drive with little kids on their lap or let their children stand and jump around in the car should imagine another driver hitting them and seeing what would happen to their child. I would rather deal with a week of my child screaming about being in a car chair than be haunted by the image of my child flying through the windscreen and having to pick up his body and plan his funeral. I would never be able to forgive myself. So I am all for this law! In fact, three is too young, it should be older.’

Reagan Skyle: ‘I am totally for this new law and feel that it is long overdue. I am always shocked when I see children standing on the seats of moving vehicles and I am glad that as a country we are taking the necessary strides towards road safety awareness. As a father, I would do everything in my power to keep my children safe and a secure car seat is a small price to pay.’

Nomfundo Manyathi-Jele NDip Journ (DUT) BTech Journ (TUT) is the news editor at De Rebus.

This article was first published in De Rebus in 2015 (May) DR 17.

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