Child passengers whose height is equal to or less than 135 cm must travel in the back seats, using an approved child restraint system suitable for their height and weight. This is a compulsoryrequirement. The main and single objective is to protect the child in the event of an accident. Thus, the only reason for children to travel without a child seat is that their medical condition is especially serious or their disability does not permit it.
Fundación MAPFRE always defends the importance of child restraint systems and their undoubted effectiveness. Nevertheless, there are 'very exceptional' circumstances in which the child can travel without using a child seat or even a seat belt. Of course, this is something that cannot be determined by parents or legal guardians. It can only be recommended by a doctor.
Thus, article 119 of the General Traffic Regulation establishes that people issued with an exemption certificate for serious medical reasons or disabilities are allowed not to use seat belts or child restraint systems.
This certificate must be presented upon the request of any agent of the authority responsible for traffic. It must, of course, state the the period of validity of this exemption and be signed by a qualified practicing physician.
For this certificate to be valid in Spain, it must have been issued by the competent authority of a member state of the European Union along with an official translation.
It is important to remember that this is an exceptional measure that should only be relied on in extreme circumstances in which being in a child seat or wearing a seat belt could mean causing the child even more harm.
As the report itself recommends: 'Children with special needs and their safety in cars' (Spanish), 'child safety seats substantially reduce the risk of injury in the event of a traffic accident and ALL children, regardless of their physical or psychological condition, have the right to the maximum level of safety when traveling in a car'.
In this regard, it should be noted that there are certain children with special needs that are able to use conventional seats. Nevertheless, on other occasions, they need special seats or ones that are adapted to the particular condition of each child. The fact is that most CRS are not intended for these children. Special or adapted seats are normally more difficult to acquire and much more expensive, with prices that even exceed 1,000 euros.
Aware of this difficulty, there are ever more people trying to help. Thus, we at Fundación MAPFRE are developing a child seat demonstrator project for children with brittle bone disease i.e. children with osteogenesis imperfecta (OI).
We also have the example of the Opal seat, by Bébé Confort, specifically designed for children with hip dysplasia, as it offers more legroom and extra back support.
In addition, Fundación MAPFRE is offering recommendations on how to travel safely with children with special needs and a multitude of materials that may prove very useful.
To a great extent, traffic accidents can be avoided by driving responsibly and their consequences can be reduced even further by wearing a fastened seat belt or having a child restraint system fitted.