Speak to any parent and most will tell you their child is the most precious thing in their lives and they would do everything to ensure their safety. While most of the time parents know exactly what they need to do to care for their children, in many cases they might not even be aware of the risks they take, particularly when travelling with their children on the roads.
“During the upcoming festive season, with restrictions on travel and alcohol sales now substantially eased, the roads are set to be more dangerous than what many people may expect,” says Peggy Mars, founder of Wheel Well, the non-profit organisation dedicated to road safety for children in South Africa. “With South Africa having shockingly low usage of child car seats, this is a crucial time for parents to ensure that they not only acquire a seat, but the correct one for their child’s life stage, and install it properly every time they drive.”
Earlier this year, Wheel Well partnered with Supa Quick to establish collection points where South Africans can drop off unused or unwanted, as well as new donated child car seats, at any of the tyre fitment centre’s locations around the country.
This was followed by a R100 000 donation to equip Wheel Well with an education centre, where parents would be trained about child safety in vehicles and the correct use of child car seats.
“The response we’ve had so far has been phenomenal, from both a donation and a usage perspective,” Mars says. “Despite the effect of the Covid-19 pandemic, the giving nature of South Africans shone through and we were able to ensure that parents that came to see us got the right car seat for their children.”
Wheel Well’s office, storage and repair shop located in Randburg, has the capacity to process and distribute 200 child car seats a month. Parents offer any donation they can afford, and their children are fitted with the right car seat that is comfortable and offers maximum protection. They are then taken through a training process to ensure they not only understand how to operate the equipment, but the dire consequences of not operating it properly.
Recent feedback from some of the parents reveals the significant gap between their existing knowledge and the actual safety requirements in practice.
“When we first went in, Wheel Well had washed the baby car seat and travel system thoroughly and quickly,” said Vania, a parent who later became a donor. “They provided me with step-by-step instructions on how to properly secure the seat, as well as safety precautions. Afterwards, we collected a few old baby car seats from friends and donated them, which they then cleaned and repurposed while educating people.”
This cycle of acquiring and donating further was a recurring theme, demonstrating that their cost nor supply need not be seen as a barrier.
“For us, it was the ideal way to get a safe baby or toddler car seat affordably,” says Liz Michel, a parent. “You give a donation and when your child outgrows the seat you return it to assist others.”
In a heart-warming moment, Joseph, a painter, was overjoyed to receive a car seat that was as good as new for his baby, one he would not otherwise be able to buy.
“He could not believe that he could get a such a good car seat,” Mars added. “Afterwards, he vowed to help the rest of his family who also need child car seats, but are unable to afford them. It is encounters such as these that lead to not just one person securing their child but creating and spreading a message of a safer environment for children on the roads through real consumer advocacy.”
For enquiries, interested individuals may contact Peggie Mars at Wheel Well at tel: 072 385 7121 or email her firstname.lastname@example.org