In terms of the different population groups involved in road accidents, children aged between 5 and 14 are the most vulnerable and the most likely to suffer injury in a collision. The use of child restraint systems (CRS) reduces accident rates in this population group to a considerable extent, which is why legislation has been passed across Europe to precisely regulate the use of the right child restraint systems for the physical condition of the child concerned.
In other countries and regions this legislation is not as clear, and in some of them it is not even mandatory to use child restraint systems, and very little is done to inform the general public through awareness-raising campaigns.
The child mortality rate in these countries is double that of the European average
By way of example, the child mortality rates from traffic accidents in Latin America and the Caribbean are more than double those of Europe and most other developed countries: while in Europe, Central Asia, Canada and the United States the child fatality rate is 4.7% in this age group, in Latin America and the Caribbean it is 7.6% (the lowest being in Uruguay, with 3.7%, and the highest in Bolivia, with 21.4%).
As mentioned earlier in this section, the correct use of child restraint systems reduces injuries by between 90% and 95% when the child is rear-facing, compared to 60% when he/she is facing in the same direction as the vehicle. Moreover, traveling against the direction of the vehicle provides children with between three and five times more protection than when they are facing forwards, and extending the use of child seats and booster seats protects children aged between 4 and 8 far more than the early use of seat belts without any other kind of support.
A study conducted by Fundación MAPFRE and the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) revealed the road accident rates in 17 countries (Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Mexico, Nicaragua, Panama, Paraguay, Peru, Puerto Rico, Uruguay and Venezuela), comparing them with the benchmark figures for Spain, Portugal and Sweden. The study is entitled “Children's Road Safety. The Use of Child Restraint Systems: analysis of the situation in Latin America and the Caribbean”.
The study's findings were very revealing: there is an urgent need to incorporate children's road safety policies into government agendas and alliances need to be established in order to move forward in a field that is as poorly legislated as it is at present. The focus should be threefold: establishing comprehensive and clear laws on the use of child restraint systems; improving vehicle safety; and rolling out public awareness-raising campaigns.
The situation in these countries is appalling: until 2013, every country mentioned in the study had legal loopholes and exceptions to the use of CRS in cars and only three of them had comprehensive legislation in place (although even this had certain exceptions). There is an evident lack of technical standards on child restraint systems and only Brazil, Chile and Puerto Rico have legislation in this area; this is compounded by a dearth of awareness-raising campaigns: only Brazil, Puerto Rico, Mexico and Uruguay have permanent and specific national campaigns on this issue.