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Let’s Talk About Seat Belts & Safety

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What would it profit a parent, who straps himself with a seat belt and leaves his children in the backseat, unprotected?

What would it profit you to live with minor abrasions, knowing that your children are either dead or incapacitated because you didn’t take a few minutes longer to ensure that they’re safe?

These questions have generated a really painful line of thoughts in my head this morning. Safety, is something a lot of Nigerians take for granted. For reasons such as laziness, or a lackadaisical attitude, we don’t pay attention to things pertaining to safety.

Driving without strapping your seat belt on was not a crime until about 10 years ago. Even when it became an offence, we still found a way to circumvent the laws. It was as if the law was not for our own safety and protection. I know a lot of bus drivers who merely sling the belt across their chests so as not to be apprehended by traffic management officials – LASTMA.

Recently, my friend got into a cab and was about to strap on the seat belt when the driver told her not to bother. According to him there was no LASTMA official on the route they were taking. She responded by telling him that she was wearing the belt for her safety and he responded ‘Na God dey save person, no be seat belt’.

Statements like this makes me incredibly sad; where does one start to effect change? How do we educate a people so mired in the belief that safety comes solely from the supernatural? How does one make people know that at the end of it all, it’s not about whether LASTMA apprehends you, but about right and wrong.

Someone suggested that we should lobby our legislators to make it law that children need to be in child seats and booster seats. It was argued that even when things like that are made into laws, it provides a wiggle room for corrupt and uninformed officials on the road to take advantage of people.

A lot of young parents have car seats but they don’t use it. It’s all about the ‘Effizy’: “Did you buy your car seat from Walmart? I bought mine from Mother Care.” Other people say their children are uncomfortable in the car seat, and as such they’d rather the child roams freely in the back seat. In other cases, the car seat is there… unoccupied and the house help is carrying the child. Even more ridiculous is the fact that some parents allow their children seat in the front seat of the car. One wonders if they have considered the deployment of the air bag, and the disastrous effect it has on a child.

Many couples who have lived abroad, have gone back to Nigeria and reverted to the ‘Nigerian Way’ of doing things? How then do we start to bring change? I’ve heard someone say that they don’t need a seat belt because they’re in the back of the car. It is mind boggling to think how very little attention we pay to these things.

Do you then blame your enemies when a crazy car spirals out of control and leaves your children in a vegetative state… because the car seat was ‘uncomfortable’?

Accidents happen; some are completely out of our control, some, we can actually prevent. Ensure that you have safety gear about. Fire extinguishers are non-negotiable. My brother lived in a building in Ajah, with no fire escape. There was NO fire extinguisher on the premises. On the day his generator exploded, and the house went up in flames, there was no fire exit and there was NO way to put out the fire. He’s been dead for 4 years now.

I know we like to leave everything in our destiny to God, but please, protect yourselves. Wear condoms, get protective gear when you go cycling, or biking and for heaven’s sakes, wear seat belts!

Photo Credit: becep.sk

You probably wanna read a fancy bio? But first things first! Atoke published a book titled, +234 - An Awkward Guide to Being Nigerian. It's available on Amazon. ;)  Also available at Roving Heights bookstore. Okay, let's go on to the bio: With a Masters degree in Creative Writing from Swansea University, Atoke hopes to be known as more than just a retired foodie and a FitFam adherent. She can be reached for speechwriting, copywriting, letter writing, script writing, ghost writing  and book reviews by email – [email protected]. She tweets with the handle @atoke_ | Check out her Instagram page @atoke_ and visit her website atoke.com for more information.

36 Comments

  1. AA

    February 26, 2014 at 1:05 pm

    You are angry, understandably so.
    May his soul continue to rest in peace.
    And may we who live learn

  2. no heart to hate

    February 26, 2014 at 1:14 pm

    True talk, Thanks

  3. ngozi

    February 26, 2014 at 1:35 pm

    Road safety corps who are supposed to enforce it looks the other way especially about car seats. Nigerians only do right when someone is out there to get them if not we just get on as usual!

  4. pynk

    February 26, 2014 at 1:41 pm

    I am almost tempted to yell at folks when I see kids bouncing around in cars or children riding in the lap of an adult in the front seat. I think road safety needs to create more awareness by showing actual accidents on TV commercials so that people can understand. I tie most of it in with ignorance and laziness.

  5. AA

    February 26, 2014 at 1:42 pm

    And I forgot to add, I hate seatbelts. I endure them and can’t wait to unbuckle them once I see I’m a few buildings shy of my destination. Bras and seatbelts

    • lolah

      February 26, 2014 at 3:20 pm

      lol!!! I totally agree with you. I hate them too…Forgive my ignorance but safety doesn’t make me wear seat belts! fear of lasma and police do! I hate the way they cut across my……

    • B

      February 26, 2014 at 4:40 pm

      In addition to all that has been said, i think baby car seats should never be placed at the front seat. I once told my bestie off for strapping her baby’s car seat (with her baby strapped in) to the front seat. She explained that it was really distracting & emotionally draining to have her baby screaming & crying for the entire 1 hour plus trip to work/creche and 2 hour plus trip back home at the end of the day. Its only when she puts the car seat at front seat that there is peace, cos she can stretch her hand to pacify the baby. I still kinda told her off o! ( But i really understand it from her own point of view & really feel for her)

  6. Jane Public

    February 26, 2014 at 1:48 pm

    That car seat thing, happy you pointed it out. A friend took a picture of her baby in the car seat as her dp. I told her immediately, the child was sitting in it wrong. You know what she said? Ehn Ehn. I didn’t know o. So, you mean you bought a car seat and you don’t know how to appropriately fit it to your car and put your child in safely. She said she bought it at a store on the Island. I asked if they fitted it for her at the store, she said no. I thought what? So, you are palying Russian Roulette with your child’s life without knowing. Other ones I have seen, very common, is buying the wrong type of car seat for the age of the child. Gosh, those ones abound aplenty. I now wonder, these are supposedly educated parents and they don’t know that you have front facing and rear facing car seats, car seats like clothes also have an age and weight restriction, yes you have car seats for children up until the age of 6, the ones for older children are called booster seats. One my bestie is guitly of is laziness to move the car seat from her car to her husband’s car when they use his car. Oh, Janey it is too difficult jare. I said okay, buy another car seat and fit to hubby’s car, money is not an object. The guy said no, how can he be seen around with a car seat in his car, when he is not a woman. Imagine the nerve. Your own child. She tells the help to hold the baby in the back seat when the go out in le hubs’s car. Heaven forbid something terrible happens the day they are in her husband’s car. it takes all of 10 minutes to remove and refit. 10minutes you would wish you had back if heaven forbid, there is an accident.

    • pynk

      February 26, 2014 at 5:10 pm

      Actually she is in the majority. About 80% of car seats in america are installed incorrectly. That’s why you can go to almost any fire department or precinct and they will install it for you. Source of this info is superfreakonomics. Lol.

    • zsa zsa

      February 26, 2014 at 11:21 pm

      ‘The guy said no, how can he be seen around with a car seat in his car, when he is not a woman.’

      I’m just speechless at the ignorance.

    • Jane Public

      February 27, 2014 at 1:30 pm

      Yup. Enter some Nigerian men. You are married, wearing a ring and all. Isn’t it appropriate for anyone who sees you to know you have children but you can’t be seen with a car seat. Maybe the car seat will scare chicks away. You know how they roll in 9ja. You didn’t hear it from me. Lol

  7. AAsh

    February 26, 2014 at 2:02 pm

    Thanks for sharing these valid points, especially the car-seat for kids; I hate seat-belts but endure it for safety’s sake.
    May your brother’s soul rest in peace.

  8. slice

    February 26, 2014 at 2:29 pm

    Atoke where is our peace love and cupcakes. Was waiting to see that at the end :). U’ve spoken well. This is a serious issue and the sad part it only takes one day for a tragedy to happen and ur whole life is turned upside down. Just get the car seat already n use it. http://www.car-safety.org/basics.html pointersPointer

    • Atoke

      February 26, 2014 at 2:30 pm

      Lol That’s specially for Banter. 😛

  9. Zayt

    February 26, 2014 at 2:41 pm

    Thanks for sharing Atoke!

  10. TheresaO

    February 26, 2014 at 2:46 pm

    Thanks Atoke, its easy to take safety issues for granted especially in Nigeria. Thanks for reminding us.

  11. @edDREAMZ

    February 26, 2014 at 3:05 pm

    ATOKE: Let’s Talk About Seat Belts & Safety ME: na am not interested bcos i gat no car….. ATOKE: ok no problem… ME: yeah no problem…..
    .
    .
    ***COMMENTING FRM 1770***

  12. Mz Socially Awkward...

    February 26, 2014 at 3:12 pm

    And it’s especially annoying when you point out those safety “musts” (i.e. wearing seatbelts, having a fire escape as part of your building plan, placing fire extinguishers within easy reach) to Nigerians and you get the response “ah, but this is Naija, na. We no be oyibo”. As if it’s Nigerians who deserve preventable deaths, not caucasians.

    Atoke, I feel the pain on the loss of your brother. May he be resting in peace.

  13. Priscy

    February 26, 2014 at 3:18 pm

    I’m someone who is usually careless when it comes to seat belt. But I had an accident last year and if not for God and the seat belt I grudgingly put on, I would have been dead and gone by now. The car somersaulted like 5 times or more, the airbag hit me hard on my chest which still hurts. When we came out of the car, people could not believe that we could even bring ourselves out, not to talk of being alive. The rescue people also took the opportunity to steal my phone self. Na wa

    Now I don’t joke with seat belt again o

  14. Doyin

    February 26, 2014 at 3:22 pm

    Thanks for sharing. For your information, the Road Safety guys are all out to check the usage of seat belts at any of their checkpoints. As a private car driver, they normally might not stop you if you use your seat belt along with your passenger in the front. If not, they will stop you and then start to check all the other unnecessary things. So friends watch out, USE YOUR SEAT BELTS, end of discussion.

  15. Kunle

    February 26, 2014 at 3:34 pm

    Its absolutely stupid not to wear your seat belts as adults and sucidal for parents to allow their kids below age 12 sit in the front seat…..Nigerians need to read instructions and label…its clearly printed on the sun shield / protector just above the windshield “children younger than 12 years old should not sit in the front seat becuase of the pressure of the air bag”
    when i see parents flouting this intruction i shake my head and simply ask a question ” DO YOU LOVE YOUR CHILD” and the answer is Capital “NO”. i was driving to the office on monday morning and a lady was driving and feeding a 2- 3yr old child in the front seat….crazy you would say. i flagged her down, stoped her and asked her this simple question….”IS IT A MUST THAT YOU MUST DIE YOUNG” and if your answer is Yes then ” MUST YOU ALSO KILL YOUR CHILD YOURSELF” she felt guilty and was almost weeping. i entered my car and drove off. looking at my rear mirror she got down went over to the passenger seat and did the right thing.
    i think we also need to help one another, if you see such anomalies on the road, try to flag them down and correct them, i guess you would have saved a life.
    PARENTS PLEASE USE CAR SEATS FOR YOUR BABIES / TODLLERS. and for Children younger than 12yrs, please let them seat at the back seat and be well strapped. thats why seat belts are provided in the back seat, if not required i know car manufacturers wouldnt have it installed.

  16. tammy

    February 26, 2014 at 3:40 pm

    Personally, I don’t joke with my seat belt. I’ve seen too many movies where an accident could have been avoided if one had their seat belt on. My daddy always said “know thyself is no curse”.

  17. ugo baby

    February 26, 2014 at 3:47 pm

    My biggest PEEVE!!! Kids that are not properly strapped in! I think its the height of irresponsibility on the side of parents to allow your child stand, seat on the drivers lap 🙁 or just roll about when the car is moving. Even the slightest bump from a careless driver can send that precious tot flying through your windscreen. At the risk of seeming rude, iv been known to flag cars down and tell parents to please strap their kids in. Why throw away 9 months of ‘suffering’ just because you want to indulge the child? Hian! Rant over!!! I feel much better 🙂

  18. Tish

    February 26, 2014 at 4:20 pm

    I get so mad when I see mother put their babies in a car seat in the front passenger seat! Its so risky. There are warnings on the car seat and on the visor specifically stating how dangerous it is. The airbag can kill babies and young children. I didnt know how bad an exploding airbag can be till I was in a horrible accident last year and though it saved my life, the airbag slammed my chest and almost broke my nose.
    I know a 6 year old who had a battered face that required stitches after the airbag exploded in his face.
    Some mothers will even insult you when you point it out to them that its dangerous and others will stupidly say that they are careful drivers! Helloooooo! Even if you are the only one on the road, an accident can still happen.

    we really really need to be more safety conscious so that we can avoid as much needless pain and death as we can. Life can really be hard sometimes, lets try to cut out regret.

  19. tolu

    February 26, 2014 at 4:34 pm

    I do not move my car an inch without using my seatbelt, it has become part of me. Safety is very important, i was driving through Gbagada to Oworonshoki on a particular day, there was traffic suddenly i turned to my right and saw this lady driving with 2 very young kids at the back seats (aged between 4 and 2) without car seats or being straped to the sit. What annoyed me most that i had to shout at the lady was that one of the kids was standing on the sit and sticking her neck out from the window because the window was down, i felt like slapping her. For days i was just thinking about it and the woman’s carelessness.

  20. Thor

    February 26, 2014 at 4:43 pm

    Some cars allow you to turn off the airbag for the front passenger seat. So you can sit a child there if you have this feature or use a child’s seat that faces the chair instead of the windscreen.

    • SisiRomi

      February 26, 2014 at 6:37 pm

      And what happens if God forbid, there is an accident and the seat belt is turned off and can’t save the child’s life?

    • Tish

      February 27, 2014 at 10:26 am

      It makes sense to put a child in the front passenger seat AND turn off the airbag??? Oh, okay…lemme guess…God is in control. #Issorait

  21. Jambo

    February 26, 2014 at 7:12 pm

    I agree that safety first should be our mantra wherever we are – in the vehicle, work site, airplane etc.
    One of our problems in Nigeria is that people leave safety issues to chance. They believe that once they have prayed over an issue, they do not need to take responsibility for their own personal safety. Hence helmets go unworn, seat belts unbuckled and sometimes you see conductors hanging off the door handles of a fast speeding danfo, defying the rules of gravity and making Tony Hawks and his band of skateboarders look ordinary.
    We find it hard to stay seated and strapped in our seats after an aeroplane lands and is just taxiing on the runway. I was once on a flight that had just landed Lagos from Gatwick London, where an overzealous alatika looking woman, unstrapped herself and jumped out of her seat once despite the air-hostess’s protestations, switch on her handset and was announcing her arrival to whoever she was speaking to on the phone. She then opened the overhead storage cabin and started drawing her luggage out. One of them spilled upon and the plastic bottles of “K-Y Jelly” she had in them dropped on the heads of the passenger next to me. Imagine the look of horror! What in goodness sake is a 65 year old mama doing with K-Y Jelly. Ewww….

    Maybe it is for her cabal of runs girls
    I read a comment above about some father refusing to “desecrate” his fine car by installing a baby seat. Misplaced priorities na. So because he wants to deceive girls he is chasing by posing as a single chap, he is jeopardizing his kid’s safety?
    Truth be told, seat belts and car seats while helpful tools are no substitute for clean decent driving. I was once in a bus which was on Eko bridge moving at convoy speed when the conductor informed the driver that one of the passengers was refusing to pay. The driver turned his head 360 like the exorcist to face the erring passenger “Abi you dey craze? You dey talk say you no go pay? Dem no born your mama well..”
    This bastard driver wasn’t even looking at the road. His anger was making him engage the passenger to the detriment of over all safety. My heart sank to my stomach with fear.

    • Onye Ara

      March 2, 2014 at 6:54 pm

      Your craze is well documented.
      My belly aches from too much laughter.

  22. Abla

    February 26, 2014 at 10:39 pm

    Very true. I must read this every other day to Ginger me to buckle my toddler. Lol!

  23. Robbie

    February 27, 2014 at 8:02 am

    Atoke, I love this. It’s a lack of education on all sides of the law: the people, the people’s representatives, and the law enforcers.
    FRCN fines me cos my wife isn’t using her seatbelt yet as he gave me “the law”, like a hundred cabs and buses drive by with 2 pax in front instead of one, without seatbelts, as if “the law” applied to private vehicles only. Well of course! Only private vehicles will pay plenty money – a.k.a. bribe – to avoid their trouble.

  24. Baby mama

    February 27, 2014 at 9:20 am

    I was reading this with all seriousness and learning my mistakes until I read @jambo’s comment, honestly I’m still laughing even after 1 hr. This is a very serious and important topic and I’m glad I learnt from it. The people I can’t forgive are those mothers that put their babies on the drivers seat and even breast feed while driving like the are competing for “I love my baby most” awards.

  25. Thor

    February 27, 2014 at 1:55 pm

    Just to clarify because it seems people have misunderstood my statement. I did not say turn off the seatbelt! I said turn off the airbag.
    The reason you are told not to put the kid in the front is because of the airbag and how it can harm the child more.
    So some cars have the option to allow you turn it off. You can then have the child in that seat in his proper booster or child seat.
    Understood Tish

  26. Aibee

    February 27, 2014 at 4:08 pm

    I agree with most of the commenters on the post. Nigerians are not safety conscious enough. From the government right to the people. For instance, Lagos state Government built LBIC Housing Estate in Isolo, each flat has only one entrance/exit. No fire escape on any floor. People just tend to take so many things for granted. Driving without spare tires, fire extinguishers etc, leaving food cooking on the gas to go and buy maggi from mallam down the road, use drugs without prescription. We just take safety for granted.

  27. Ozymandias

    March 4, 2014 at 2:31 pm

    Well written piece.
    More of us need to develop the good habit of strapping on the seat belt as soon as we board a vehicle.
    Good one.

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