Wheel Well donates car seats in honour of Mandela Month

On 22 July, in honour of Nelson Mandela’s 67 years of service to the people of South Africa, Wheel Well donated car seats to families who would not otherwise be able to afford these vital safety devices. The seats were available on a first-come, first-served basis at Supa Quick Fourways.

Wheel Well is a non-governmental organisation that focuses on road safety for children. It has distributed close to 11 000 car seats to families who need them over the past 11 years. Supa Quick is a long-standing Wheel Well partner, with all the 190 Supa Quick fitment centres acting as collection points where donated car seats can be dropped off.  

Peggie Mars, Founder of Wheel Well, says that child mortality in vehicle accidents remains unacceptably high, with children accounting for almost 18% of the 12 451 fatalities on South Africa’s roads in 2021.

“Madiba’s concern for children is legendary, so we hope this campaign will make an impact not just on the 67 families that will receive these seats, but by raising public awareness of the pressing need to secure children safely in vehicles,” she says. “It’s not widely known that his own family has suffered two deaths owing to vehicle accidents—vehicle safety is absolutely essential for everybody, but especially for children, whose bodies are particularly vulnerable to the high levels of trauma associated with vehicle accidents.”

Mars says that half of the car seats on offer were specialist infant seats. These seats are designed for babies from birth to 13kg or 15 months. It’s vital to use specially designed infant seats because infants are born with undeveloped skulls, spines and pelvises, which are extremely vulnerable. The angle of these seats is designed to protect fragile spines and necks during a collision, while side-impact protection prevents injury to the head and neck.

Because infants’ heads are large in proportion to the rest of their body they are thrown forward with more relative force than those of adults during a crash.

Mars says putting children into the right seat is vital to ensure safety. Once children are too large for an infant seat (at 13kg or 15 months) they need to progress to age- and weight-appropriate car seats. However, the weight and age ranges given on the various sizes of car seats are based on the World Health Organisation’s weight-for-age charts. However, South African babies tend to be larger than the average, which means that parents can find themselves buying an expensive car seat that is outgrown too rapidly. To help avoid this issue, Wheel Well has developed charts for boys and girls that will enable parents to predict more accurately their child’s growth trajectory, so that an appropriate car seat can be chosen.

For example, car seats are selected by taking weight, height and age into account. Best practice is for the car seat to face the rear until at least 15 months, at which point its weight should be 13kg. But if a child is already 10kg at six months, it is likely to reach 13kg before it is 15 months old, and thus a rear-facing car seat that can handle weight above 13kg will be needed. Similarly, best practice is for toddlers to be harnessed until the age of four (at which point weight is estimated to be 18kg), but if he or she is likely to reach 18kg before that age, a seat that can harness to a higher weight will be required.

“Using our charts, parents can be sure they are purchasing a car seat that won’t be outgrown prematurely just because their child doesn’t conform to the WHO’s averages,” Mars says. “Manufacturers are a source of good information, and Wheel Well is always ready to help with advice as well.”

Supa Quick’s Yolandi Grundeling says that the company is delighted to have played a role in this initiative. “Protecting the nation’s children on our roads is a cause we hold very dear, and we feel this initiative is one that aligns well with Madiba’s vision of a country in which young people could reach their full potential,” she says. “Sixty-seven safe children are a fitting tribute to our country’s great leader.”