A mother buckling up a child in car
A mother buckling up a child in car

Buckle up the child! Protect our most precious passengers!

You buckle yourself into your seatbelt with practised ease, a routine as familiar as breathing.

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But in the backseat, your child —  your pride and joy — bounces freely, a small smile playing on their lips. You slam on the brakes to avoid a pothole and your little one flies! Scary, right? Sadly, this scenario plays out far too often on Ghanaian roads, making one wonder if it is a reflection of love or a dangerous oversight.

The fact is that these children have not grasped the concept of danger and you, the responsible adult, have not insisted either. Let us be clear — the click of a seatbelt buckle does not measure love for a child. However, it is undeniably demonstrated by taking every possible step to keep them safe.

Studies have shown that failing to use seatbelts and child restraints dramatically increases the risk of death and serious injuries in road accidents. These restraints do not prevent crashes, but they play a vital role in keeping occupants secured during sudden stops or collisions.

Before the invention of restraint systems, crashes often resulted in ejections or violent throws against the vehicle's interior, leading to head, chest and abdominal injuries. Research confirms that seatbelts significantly reduce the risk of major trauma, especially facial, abdominal and spinal injuries.

The consequences of not using restraints extend beyond personal injury. Families suffer immense pain and crashes can create a financial burden due to lost income or long-term care needs.

Furthermore, crashes place a strain on government resources used to care for victims and their families.

During crash

Imagine a crash not as a single event, but as a terrifying three-act play. The first act involves your car hitting something — another vehicle, a tree or anything. But the danger does not stop there.

In act two, if you are unbuckled, you become a projectile, being flung violently inside the car.  Your body slams into the dashboard, steering wheel, or even another passenger. This is where seatbelts become heroes.

They restrain you, significantly reducing the risk of such brutal impacts. The final act, for the unrestrained, is even more horrifying. Your internal organs smash against your ribs and bones due to the sudden stop. Seatbelts offer a powerful defence against this invisible internal injury.

The truth is simple: Unrestrained occupants keep moving at the crash speed, turning them into human missiles inside their vehicles. This dramatically increases the risk of ejection and severe injuries. The message is clear: Wearing a seatbelt is not just a good idea, it is a life-saving defence against the brutal physics of a crash.

Why children matter

The WHO 2023 Global Status Road Safety Report indicates that road crashes are the leading killer of children and youth, causing huge health, social and economic harm throughout society.

As of 2019, road traffic crashes, across the globe were the leading killer of children and youth aged 5 to 29 years.  There is a growing concern for securing children being transported in vehicles as vehicle ownership increases and there is a greater reliance on public service vehicles.

Restraint systems are not just for adults; they are essential for children of all ages. Children have fragile bodies and are a bigger risk. Compared to adults, children have weaker muscles, bones and organs. Even a minor crash can cause serious injuries, especially to the head, chest and abdomen.

Furthermore, unlike adults, young children cannot hold themselves still. They might be playing, sleeping, or simply not strong enough to brace themselves during a sudden stop. The appropriate restraint system will prevent them from becoming human projectiles inside the car, protecting them from being thrown around or even ejected in a crash.

Act 638

Safety is a choice you make every day. A choice that starts with you. You as a caregiver have the ultimate responsibility for ensuring that the child in your care is safe in a vehicle.

Moreover, the laws of Ghana mandate every driver to ensure that a child is well seated in a vehicle. Section 14 of the Road Traffic Act, 2004 (Act 638), the principal legislation governing road transport in Ghana prohibits a driver from placing a child under five years in the front seat.

According to the law, only children above 5 years are allowed to be seated in the front seat. Additionally, all children above five years must wear their seatbelts irrespective of whether they are seated at the front or rear of the vehicle.

Although Ghana’s laws regarding child vehicular safety require reviews to be at par with international best practices, it is important that citizens are abreast of the current laws and that enforcement agencies are allowed to enforce the laws rigorously.

It is the belief of the LADA Institute, that a strengthened legal framework, coupled with enhanced awareness and public education, will lead to consistent enforcement and compliance and consequently reduce road traffic fatalities for children in Ghana.

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Buckle up the child! Because every journey, no matter how short, deserves the protection of seatbelts and child restraints!

The writer is the Project Manager,
LADA Institute

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