In the same way that I hate being told what to do, I hate telling other people what to do. Parenting is hard enough without people making judgements about our parenting choices. BUT, there is one notable exception, and that’s when it comes to a child’s safety. If you choose to feed your kid from the boob or with formula, I don’t care because either way your little one is getting fed. If you choose to have a nanny or send your kid to creche, that’s also your choice and I have nothing to add to the conversation. However, if a child is in danger, we all have a responsibility to speak up.
The world is full of scary things. I recently saw a video where a little one was almost snatched, just a couple steps away from her mom, or how about the recent uproar about the Stanford rape case? Babies can get sick and end up in the NICU, a place I hope Harley never ends up in again. Sometimes, there’s nothing we can do to prevent the horrors – it comes down to luck. However, when you get in a car, there is something you can do to protect your precious cargo, and a frighteningly small percentage of parents do it.
I remember the weeks leading up to when we brought Harley home. I kept hoping for her to gain the weight, to be ready to come home, but it didn’t feel quite real. Because she had come so early, Dean and I hadn’t even gotten around to getting her two most important things – her cot and her car seat. I had done my research and I knew exactly what I wanted; the car seat we ended up purchasing is so safe that it claims our car can roll (knock on wood that never happens) and she would still be totally fine and protected. It was only when we bought both her travel system and her camping cot that it felt real that she’d be coming home. We had a way to transport her and a place for her to sleep.
The hospital had a rule that you couldn’t take a baby home without a car seat. I sort of laughed at the time – I mean, obviously, right? Well, not so obviously. According to some scary statistics, only 15% of babies are in car seats in South Africa. That means a whopping 85% aren’t. When you consider that car seats reduce the risk of death in passenger cars by 71% in infants and 54% in toddlers, those are some scary, scary numbers. Thinking of the ridiculous number of accidents that occur every day on our roads, in particular over long weekends or major holidays, it’s actually terrifying to think how many tiny lives are in danger for absolutely no reason.
Yes, I know, some of you will tell me that there are people who can’t afford car seats, and you’re absolutely right. That’s why there are organizations like Wheel Well which runs a campaign around car seats. That’s right, any old car seat you have can be refurbished and donated to a family in need, helping them take care of their little ones even if they don’t have the funds.
But sadly, those aren’t the babies I see most often unrestrained. No, I’m talking about the little ones I see, being dropped off at the nearby schools and creches, the ones driving in Polos or Subarus or Land Rovers or Porsche Cayennes. I see them standing on the back seats, hanging limbs out of windows, or even climbing into the front of the car. It isn’t due to hardship that these parents aren’t restraining their tiny people, it’s out of negligence. Maybe the kid screams in the car seat, or maybe they figure it’s just a quick trip and everything will be fine. How devastating would it be, then, if that quick trip ended in tragedy, a tragedy that could be avoided.
I’m lucky – Harley adores her car seat. She happily goes into it, sometimes just giving a wriggle when I strap her in, and then usually falls asleep during the drive – even if it’s just down the road. She faces backwards, and I’m starting to notice her feet are actually touching the backrest of the backseat. Cool for her, she’s getting taller. But that doesn’t mean she’s getting turned around anytime soon.
The reality is, we never know when we could be in an accident. It could be a distracted driver on his phone in rush hour traffic while we go fetch Dean in the afternoon, it could be a still-drunk driver on a Saturday morning when we head to Pretoria to see my beautician, it could be due to random glare from headlights late at night driving back from a braai with friends. I consider myself a careful driver; I have never been in an accident. But that doesn’t mean I never will. It’s scary and awful to imagine, but even worse is to think that something could happen to Harley as a result.
Maybe you don’t have a kid, or maybe you always strap yours in. But based on the stats, you know at least one person who doesn’t, at least one person who is putting their precious baby in mortal danger when they take them to school, or to the shops, or to meet up with friends. You don’t have to explain to them how horrifying it is when a baby is thrown from a car. You don’t have to be “that” friend who lectures them about children who become handicapped in accidents that wouldn’t leave a scratch if they were in correct restraints. Simply share these #CarseatFullstop posts when you see them.
To make sure you don’t miss any of these posts, be sure to follow #CarseatFullstop on Facebook, twitter and Instagram and sign up for the newsletter, too. And a huge shoutout to local mom, blogger, brain and words behind Pregnant in Cape Town and Tums 2 Tots Online, and generally awesome lady Mandy Lee Miller, for organizing and managing this campaign. She has so much passion for the project and truly puts it in the best words:
You have the power to save a little life. One share, seen by one person, who straps in one child, saves a life. Saves a lot of lives, if you consider what is left of a family after losing a child.