Windhoek-A young woman’s life changed forever when she became wheelchair-bound after she had failed to wear a seat belt while travelling in a motor vehicle.
Unfortunately after the driver lost control of the car it rolled and she was thrown out at a high speed.
Tanja Cloete, who was the passenger, injured her spinal cord, and is now paraplegic, meaning she is paralysed from the waist down.
Cloete related her story during a joint press conference between the City Police, Namibian Police Force, Motor Vehicle Accident Fund (MVA) and Cardiff University (Wales) to highlight shocking figures from a new survey of seat belt use, which helps illustrate why so many people are needlessly dying and being seriously injured on Namibia’s roads.
“I am a victim of a car crash that happened on 20 July 2008. I remember travelling from Lüderitz not wearing a seat belt and waking up two weeks afterwards in the hospital’s intensive care unit (ICU). Note, I wasn’t wearing a seat belt. I want to create awareness that 40 to 60 percent of injuries can be reduced by wearing a seat belt. Today I regret the fact that had I worn a seat belt my life could have turned out differently,” said Cloete, who pleaded with fellow Namibians to start wearing seat belts as a life could be lost or they could face a similar fate that befell her.
Cloete is now employed at MVA as a switchboard operator. She will be the MVA goodwill ambassador for the Click for Life campaign.
On a sideline interview Cloete said being wheelchair-bound is not easy especially after she had walked for over 20 years.
“Buildings are not wheelchair-friendly as they have staircases and as a result you depend on others to help you access buildings,” narrated Cloete.
Sharing findings of the survey City Police spokesperson Cillie Auala-Kapolo said 88% of passengers seated in the rear of a vehicle never or hardly wore seat belts.
Auala-Kapolo also said that only 20% of children observed were in a child booster. “The study showed the use of child boosters or restraints is quite low and so is the use of seat belts among rear seat occupants.
“Unbuckled passengers can easily be ejected through the front, rear, or side windows during an accident, therefore in order to reduce the risk of injuries and death, parents should ensure that their kids are safe by using suitable child restraints when on the road. Additionally drivers, especially taxi drivers, have a responsibility to ensure their passengers always wear a seat belt,” she advised.
Auala-Kapolo said that during the survey 1,690 cars and 226 trucks were inspected over a four-hour period at multiple police roadblocks in Windhoek by the City Police.
She said a total of 1,557 (92%) of cars inspected had working seat belts, while in 8% of cars the seat belts malfunctioned.
Notably, she said, the majority of those wearing seat belts – 61% which is 2,397 people – were in private cars while the rest – 39% which is 1 501 people – were in taxis.
Furthermore, during 2016/2017 the Namibian Police Force (Nampol) issued 1,234 seat belt fines to motorists, which amounted to N$1.1 million, while for 2017/2018 630 seat belt fines amounted to N$64,000.
Nampol head of operations at the Traffic Law Enforcement Division, Chief Inspector Polly Shivute Sem, said the law is straightforward that any adult or persons over 14 years old should wear a seat belt.
“Children should use seat belts and children are not allowed to sit in front of the vehicle as it is more dangerous because the airbag is fitted in front of the vehicle. Seat belts are important to use and I know people have different beliefs and used to say they don’t want to use seat elts because what if the car burns? But if you look at the statistics, maybe only 2% of vehicles involved in accidents catch fire but 98% of vehicles involved are normal accidents, such as rolling, and no fire involved,” remarked Sem.
Head of City Police Traffic Management, Senior Superintendent Adam Eiseb, elaborated that when it comes to children, it is the driver’s responsibility to ensure they wear a seat belt or child restraint.
He said the fine applicable is N$500 per child without a seat belt and the driver of the vehicle has to pay.
He said a passenger without a seat belt will be fined N$1,000.