Tao Carstens, ER24 Operational Branch Manager for Southern Cape, says she regularly arrives at accident scenes where people haven’t been wearing their seatbelts.

She explains why buckling up is critical.

Wearing a seatbelt isn’t just about you 

Everyone in a vehicle is in danger if just one person doesn’t wear a seatbelt, warns Carstens – and that includes backseat passengers. If you’re involved in an accident, anyone who hasn’t buckled up becomes a moving projectile, potentially causing serious injury to themselves and to other passengers. Another danger is that an unbuckled person can be flung out of the vehicle, leading to more severe injuries and even death.

Buckle up your family the right way 

Buckling up is one thing, but doing it properly is equally important. Carstens explains that strapping the seatbelt over your lap isn’t enough – you need to secure your torso too. She reiterates that many backseat passengers don’t buckle up, even though it’s legally required. Children in a vehicle should never be held on someone’s lap. Infants and toddlers need to be securely fastened in a car seat. Older children must buckle up properly with a seatbelt. “If they’re too small, they should be in a booster seat so the restraint can fit them properly,” Carstens advises. In fact, the law requires that all children under the age of three must be seated on an appropriate (SABS approved) child restraint.

Seatbelts can’t prevent all injuries 

Wearing a seatbelt does save lives, but a serious motor vehicle accident will still cause injuries. “Buckling up greatly reduces serious injuries, but less severe injuries are still seen, for example neck injuries due to whiplash. These occur when the ligaments and neck muscles are stretched due to the head’s continued forward movement during the rapid decrease in speed after impact,” explains Carstens. “Patients feel this as a muscular pain in the neck that restricts them from moving their head properly. This needs to be assessed medically.” Other common car accident injuries include cuts from shattered windows and windscreens, and severe bruising. Buckling up is the right – and safe – thing to do. Statistics from the Western Cape government show that wearing a seatbelt reduces the risk of death in motor vehicle crashes by up to 45%. They also prevent 99% of occupants from being ejected in a crash.

For real help, real fast, call ER24 on 084 124.