‘Alarming’ wearing rates in seatbelt survey

The Automobile Association of South Africa and the Bridgestone-backed Committee for Active Road Safety (CARS) have issued a joint statement urging South Africans to buckle up when travelling on the roads. The statement was made after research done by the AA’s Public Affairs division on behalf of Bridgestone - CARS revealed that low numbers of South African vehicle occupants wear their seatbelts.

“The occupant most likely to wear a belt in South Africa is the driver,” said AASA Head of Public Affairs, Rob Handfield – Jones. “64% of drivers surveyed were buckled up. However, the wearing rate drops sharply for other occupants: only 41% of front seat passengers wear their belts,” he explained. “In the rear seat, the picture is alarming: a mere 22% of left rear occupants wear their belts, and 25% of right rear occupants,” he said. “In Ireland in 2007, the seatbelt wearing rate for all occupants was in excess of 90%, which the Irish authorities described as having ‘room for improvement’. By comparison, South Africa’s average wearing rate for all occupants is 56%,” commented Handfield-Jones.

The seatbelt research was carried out in Gauteng at two locations simultaneously during peak-hour afternoon traffic. A total of 2007 vehicles of differing types were surveyed, containing 2754 occupants in all seating positions. The wearing rates recorded for front seat occupants at the two locations were within three percent of one-another, while rear seat occupant wearing rates between the two locations showed a 12% variance. Of the vehicles surveyed, 586, or 29%, had more than one occupant. In almost half of these vehicles, none of the occupants was wearing a seatbelt, while seatbelt usage among passengers was more prevalent in vehicles where the driver was buckled up. “This shows the importance of drivers setting the example in seatbelt use,” said Handfield - Jones. “Parents in particular should lead the way in ensuring their children develop a life-long habit of buckling up,” he added.

Bridgestone - CARS Chairman, Gavin Kelly, said the findings were of great concern. “Seatbelts can reduce the chances of death or serious injury in a crash by up to 75%, “he said. “We cannot regard ourselves as a nation that takes road safety seriously until our seatbelt wearing rates reach international norms,” he added. He called on traffic authorities to step up enforcement of seatbelt wearing, and reminded drivers that seatbelt offences would count towards their license demerit points limit when this system was implemented in 2009. “If people won’t buckle up for safety reasons, perhaps the risk of losing their license will convince them,” he added.

Kelly also said that the low wearing rates of rear seat passengers also needed to be addressed. “The rear seat is seen as a safe place to be in a crash, but research and crash tests show that the opposite is true,” he said. “Also, unrestrained rear seat occupants can cause massive injuries to other occupants when they are flung around during a crash,” he added.

The AA said it will work with Bridgestone – CARS to expand and refine the seatbelt research survey into an ongoing programme which will eventually encompass locations across the country, with the survey being conducted on a quarterly basis.

Data Summary

Total number of cars surveyed 2007
Total number of drivers 2007
Number of drivers wearing belts 1284 (63.97%
Total number of front seat passengers 540
Number of front seat passengers wearing belts 221 (40.92%)
Total number of left rear passengers 112
Number of left rear passengers wearing belts 25 (22.32%)
Total number of right rear passengers 95
Number of right rear passengers wearing belts 24 (25.26%)
Total number of occupants 2754
Number of occupants wearing belts 1554 (56.42%)
Total number of multi-occupant vehicles 586 (29.19%)
Number of multi-occupant vehicle occupants wearing belts 254 (43.34%)
Number of multi-occupant vehicle drivers wearing belts while having one or more unbelted passengers 82 (13.99%)
Number of multi-occupant vehicles in which one or more passengers were buckled up, but the drivers were not 29 (4.94%)

Contact
Automobile Association of South Africa (AA)
Telephone 011 799 1180
E-mail
press@aasa.co.za