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Call for greater safety in school transport at the European level

Se pide mayor seguridad en el transporte escolar en el ámbito europeo

20/05/2021

As we have previously addressed, there is still a long way to go before buses are designed with the youngest children in mind. Despite the fact that every day more than 600,000 children travel by school transport to school and that 9 out of 10 use it throughout the school year for excursions or sports activities, it is still difficult for them to travel with a child restraint system appropriate to their size and weight. Why? Most belts on buses are two-point belts. 

This problem has been referred to the European Parliament's Petition Committee, which has left open the petition made by Cinco Puntos, a Spanish citizens' association of parents and parents fighting for the safety of minor children using school transport.

Although all bus users are obliged to use the restraint system installed on the buses, we find that young children are not always protected. This is what María del Rosario González said during her presentation to the European Parliament on behalf of the aforementioned platform (see her speech here). It indicated that in the event of sudden braking, they are not protected with a two-point belt. This was the experience of a 3-year-old girl in 2019, who fell onto the bus floor when it braked despite wearing her seat belt properly fastened, as reported by María del Rosario González.

The citizen platform states that "the wording of laws and directives is imprecise and generates a legal loophole allowing companies in the sector to install two-point seat belts, presumably safe, for children under 135 cm when in fact they are not". Thus, the Cinco Puntos platform refers to three directives (the directive 91/671/EEC, the 2014/37/EU and the 2003/20/ EC) which address the mandatory installation of seat belts in all categories including buses and minibuses "but the type of belt is not specified". 

Remember that three-point seats belt are suitable for the use of a booster, which belongs to Group 2-3 (15-26 kg). When children reach this weight they can generally begin to use school transportation. A booster is the only compatible child restraint system due to the scarce space between seats. The correct use of these is completely eliminated if buses are not equipped with three-point belts. 

The commission, together with the member states, is currently working in an informal work group on a European level, focusing on safer child transport in buses. This group is chaired by the Spanish authorities and has attracted great interest from many countries. As the Petition Committee has stated, before establishing new safety standards for young children, a thorough analysis must be carried out. Unfortunately however, the pandemic is delaying the research. 

The request made by Cinco Puntos has been left open and forwarded to the European Parliament's Committee on Transport and Tourism.

At Fundación MAPFRE we have prepared an infographic with recommendations for safe school transportation.

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