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Four out of every ten children killed in traffic accidents in Portugal are passengers

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05/11/2015

It may appear that children are more likely to suffer an accident as pedestrians, but this is not the case. In Portugal, 43% of children killed in traffic accidents were simply passengers in the vehicle. The number killed as pedestrians is 26%.

This makes us realize that we must make a greater effort to improve the safety of children travelling by car.

The first thing to understand is that no child up to 1.35m in height or less can travel without using a car seat (child restraining system), suitable for both their age, height and weight. However much you love your children, the laws of physics dictate, and even though a mother may disagree, that her arms are not enough to restrain a child during an accident, and it will be thrown from them, with lethal consequences. A child must never be carried in the arms of a parent, it is not safe.

Sometimes, unfortunately, we still see children in the arms of a parent. This behavior, which is seen more frequently than it should be, is very dangerous. If the adult is not wearing a seatbelt, when braking hard or during an accident, a child will be thrown against the dashboard or the windscreen and crushed by a force of over 1000kgs. Also, even when wearing the seatbelt and holding the child, it is impossible to stop it from being thrown against the dashboard or the windscreen or even thrown from the vehicle completely.

There are different types of seats available as the child grows. For very small children, up to four years of age, it is recommended that they travel backward facing because it is much safer for them, their neck is much better protected in an accident. The use of a child car seat is obligatory because it is necessary. There is no valid excuse or reason for not using one.

Secondly, regularly check that the seat is properly installed in the car. A child seat just placed on the car seat will not work: in an accident the inertia caused by braking or due to an accident will throw it forward. Carefully read the instruction manual to make sure the seat is perfectly installed and if you are in any doubt ask a specialist.

You must never forget that a child must always use a car seat, and must always be properly restrained using a harness, a shield or a seatbelt. Under no circumstances must you allow a child to use a seat without being properly restrained, even on a short trip (“just five minutes”). There are still bad habits that need to be corrected.

Children should travel on the rear seats, as they are much safer than the passenger seat.

And of course, anything that is important for improving road safety is even more valid when travelling with children in the car, drive carefully, do not drink if you are going to drive, do not be distracted by your phone, keep a safe distance and don’t speed, are all relevant precautions to minimize the risk of an accident.

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