What the law says about overloading children in vehicles

Following a taxi crash which left 19 school children dead earlier this year, the Gauteng Education MEC Panyaza Lesufi believes overloading played a major role in the tragedy…

In April this year, a taxi carrying schoolchildren collided with a truck just outside Bronkhorstspruit. A devastating total of 19 children were killed in the accident.

According to the Gauteng Education MEC Panyaza Lesufi, overloading played a major role in the tragedy. He believes that more stringent laws need to be enforced in our country in order to dissuade people from this dangerous practice.

If one looks at the current laws in our country regarding road safety, it is easy to see that they do not adequately address the issue of overloading. For example, children under the age of three are not ‘counted’ as being passengers; two children between the age of three and six are counted as one person, and three children between the age of six and 13 are counted as two people. This means that an eight-seater vehicle can legally carry more than 16 children, depending on their age.

Wheel Well, a local organisation promoting road safety for children, says that the National Road Traffic Act, has ‘alarming consequences’ for the safety of our children on the road.

Obviously, with children sharing seats, they do not each have their own seat belt. The dangers arising from not buckling up are immense. Eugene Herbert, managing director of MasterDrive, an Advanced Driver training company, says: ‘Estimates from the CDC say fatal injuries in a crash are reduced by up to 45% if a seatbelt is worn and serious injuries are reduced by 50%. When a crash occurs, where the occupant is wearing a seatbelt, three impacts occur. The first is the car crashing into another car or object. The second is the body against the inside of the car and lastly the organs inside your body impacting against each other.’

Herbert, agrees it is going to take more than just stricter consequences for drivers who overload. He emphasises that ‘the legal foundation needs to be in place’, and that this starts with acknowledging that ‘children are even more vulnerable in crashes and have a right to a proper seat and the correct restraints.

It’s not all down to the law, though. Parents also need to take responsibility for ensuring that they don’t allow their children to travel with transport providers, family or friends who put too many children in their vehicles, thereby placing them all at unnecessary risk.

Source: MasterDrive