Yesterday afternoon, I took a quick trip to the local supermarket to grab a few things. When I got there I made a beeline for the trolley bay but the sound of a crying bub caught my attention. I looked around and saw a 4-wheel drive parked near me. There was a young woman in the back, cuddling and hushing a crying infant who looked no more than two months old. A toddler jumped up and down excitedly on the seat next to her and another child sat in the other seat. A teen sat in the front passenger seat and while I watched, a woman climbed into the driver’s seat.
It’s not worth risking them- even for a short trip.
I felt my jaw drop. “Oh, you’re not…surely you aren’t going to…” went my thoughts. I rummaged around for my mobile phone but she made a sharp U-turn and drove off, out of the car park and out of my line of sight.
She drove off with not one but at least two unrestrained children in that car. I’m not even sure if the other passengers had belts on but the toddler and the baby had nothing at all. Not even a seat belt, let alone an approve children’s car restraint. And I confess that I was so shocked by such rampant carelessness and stupidity that I didn’t even get enough details to call the police with, something I am kicking myself for even now.
The thing is, you might be the best goddamn driver in the world. The driver we all aspire to be. You might be a natural who ended up teaching their driving instructor a better way to reverse park. You might be just freaking amazing at driving. But you cannot control what happens on the road. You can’t control a kid chasing a ball or a freaked out cat that might run out and cause you to stop suddenly. You can’t control another driver coming towards you who decides he needs to send a text and proceeds to swerve on to your side of the road. You can’t control falling tree branches, mechanical faults, flat tyres, wildlife on the road or any number of other factors. In fact, the one thing you CAN do (besides driving awesomely) is to ensure all your passengers are restrained appropriately to offer them the best possible protection you can in case of an accident. This is you legal obligation and even if it wasn’t- I really can’t see why you wouldn’t do so anyway.
The Western Australian Office of Road Safety states you are ten times more likely to be killed in a road accident if you aren’t wearing a seat-belt. Seat-belts became mandatory in Australia in the 70’s and 80’s and the subsequent decline in the road toll was phenomenal. Many studies have shown that wearing seat-belts dramatically improves your chances of survival and minimising your chance of injury in a road accident.
Likewise, children’s car restraints have also been shown to greatly reduce the chance of injury or death of a child in the event of a motor vehicle accident. This is why our laws require children to be in approved, appropriate car restraints until the age of 7. It’s not some sort of revenue raiser for the police, it’s not a conspiracy between the government and manufacturers- it is purely there to protect our kids. What better reason could you possibly need?
Car seats can be expensive- but they are an absolute necessity. You might want to try to buy one second hand to save money and it’s certainly do-able however there are a few things you need to know before doing so.
1- If a seat was ever in a car accident, it should not be re-used- even if there is no obvious damage. For this reason, make sure the person you are buying from is someone you can trust. You child’s safety is your top priority- it might not be their’s.
2- How old is it? Generally, manufacturers advise that if it’s more than 6-10 years old, it shouldn’t be used.
3- Has it got any cracks, fraying or obvious wear? Don’t risk it.
4- By law, any children’s car restraints or car seats used in Australia must meet the requirements of Australian/New Zealand Standard (AS/NZS) 1754. This should be clearly printed on the restraint itself. If it’s not- don’t buy it!