It is not uncommon in Harare to see drivers and passengers rushing to put on their seatbelts when they are approaching a police roadblock, only to take them off as soon as they pass through.
Local motorists are clearly missing the point. Seatbelts are a vital safety component meant to afford protection for vehicle occupants during collisions or sudden stops. They are especially vital when vehicles overturn. They also stop crash victims from being thrown from their cars.
Road Safe Zimbabwe coordinator, Sam Nyaude, says that seatbelts combine with the use of front air bags to reduce the effect of every crash by 50%.
“It is a fact that when a vehicle stops moving objects inside the vehicle remain in motion. Therefore there is a need for restraints,” says Nyaude.
Nyaude explains that passengers and drivers should desist from the habit of wearing seatbelts to avoid arrest. They should instead use seatbelts because they value their lives. Nyaude believes that as the driver you are responsible for the safety of your passengers, and it is your duty to ensure that seatbelts are available and used – in the front and back seats. For young children, child restraints in the form of a car seat is highly recommended as seatbelts are ineffective and even harmful to small people during impacts.
“It is sad that seatbelt enforcement is slacking in Zimbabwe, but penalties that pinch a little harder will improve the adoption of seat- belt use. Enforcement should not be limited to front seat users only, but also to backseat passengers,” Nyaude says.
Failure to wear a seatbelt is a traffic offence that attracts the most basic of fines – just $5. Talkmore Kambanje (39), a motorist from Waterfalls, concurred with Nyaude, saying that police should increase fines for not wearing a seatbelt.
“Seatbelts are important and I am of the view that the current fines are not deterrent enough. I believe that is why most motorists ignore them (seatbelts),” said Kambanje.
Dickson Darikwai (35), a kombi driver from Epworth, acknowledged the importance of seatbelts, but pointed his finger at the traffic police, whom he accuses of being corrupt and falling short in their duties.
“Many drivers, especially kombi drivers, see no need to use seatbelts because it won’t help their case when they are stopped by traffic cops. Besides, there are many other traffic regulations that are being ignored and wearing a seatbelt is just one of those petty offences,” said Darikwai.
Arcadia resident, Annmore Jackson (34), believes that government should introduce a policy that ensures that all public service vehicles such as kombis and buses have seat- belts on every seat.
“It is sad to note that out of a kombi’s 20 occupants, only two people will be wearing seatbelts leaving the rest exposed to damage when there is an emergency stop. It should be a pre-requisite for kombis and buses to have seatbelts on every seat. This will greatly reduce the number of people who get killed in road accidents,” Jackson said.
Road Safe Zimbabwe estimates that eight people are killed in road accidents in the country every week. They say the use seatbelts by all motorists will greatly reduce the number of casualties on the roads.