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South Africa: Child Restraint and Seat Belt Regulations Tightened

(Dec. 2, 2014) On October 31, 2014, South Africa’s Minister of Transportation issued amendments to the National Road Traffic Regulations of 2000, which are made under the National Road Traffic Act of 1996. (Amendment of the National Road Traffic Regulations, § 52, Government Gazette [GG], No. 38142 (Oct. 31, 2014), SOUTH AFRICA GOVERNMENT ONLINE; Correction Notice, GG No. 38185 (Nov. 6, 2014), SOUTH AFRICA GOVERNMENT ONLINE.)

Among other changes, the amendments extend child restraint rules, which previously had only applied to children above the age of three, to cover infants. The amended Regulations state: “[t]he driver of a motor vehicle operated on a public road shall ensure that an infant [a person under the age of three years] travelling in such a motor vehicle is seated on an appropriate child restraint … .” (Amendment of the National Road Traffic Regulations, § 52.) However, this requirement does not apply to transportation of infants in a “minibus, midibus or bus operating for reward.” (Id.; the § 52 amendment adds a subsection 6A to § 213 of the Regulations).) This part of the regulations will take effect in April 2015. (Id. § 78.)

The Regulations require that a driver of a motor vehicle must ensure that a child (all persons between the ages of three and fourteen except those taller than one and a half meters) in the vehicle use a child restraint if one is available or wear a seat belt in a seat that is equipped with one. (National Road Traffic Regulations, 2000, § 213, 417 (20963) GOVERNMENT GAZETTE (Mar. 17, 2000), University of Pretoria website.) If no seat belt is available and the vehicle is equipped with a rear seat, the driver must ensure that the child is seated in the rear seat. (Id.)

South Africa has a high rate of child deaths from traffic accidents. According to the World Health Organization, there were 13,768 reported road traffic fatalities in South Africa in 2009. (South Africa, WORLD HEALTH ORGANIZATION (last visited Nov. 26, 2014).) In Gauteng province alone, 1,513 children were killed in traffic accidents from 2008 through 2011; among the victims 348 were passengers. (Lorraine Kearney, South Africa Tightens Seatbelt Laws to Protect Children, ALLAFRICA (Nov. 24, 2014).) Similarly, 146 child passengers under the age of 14 were killed in traffic accidents in Western Cape Province from 2011 through 2013; the bodies of 78 of these children were recovered outside the cars, “which is an almost certain indication that the individual wasn’t buckled up.” (Child Car Safety: How South Africa’s Laws Fall Short, MONEYBAGS (Nov. 6, 2014).)