In Chile, traffic accidents are the leading cause of non-domestic fatalities in children between the ages of one and fourteen. In 2015 alone a total of 73 children under the age of 12 lost their lives in traffic accidents and 4,513 sustained serious injuries. In the last 10 years, there have been 190 deaths and 23,177 injuries in children aged under 12 as a result of traffic accidents.
It is for this reason that since 2016 Chile has been implementing far-reaching changes to the way children travel by car. Since last year the country has been enacting legislative reforms geared towards guaranteeing greater safety for children.
On 16 March 2016 the country rolled out the first phase of these changes. Since then, there has been a ban on children under the age of 12 traveling in the front passenger seats. They must now travel in the back seats of the vehicle and always use a seat belt or child restraint system. Previously the law only placed a restriction on front-seat travel for children under eight years old. This has now been increased to up to 12 years old.
This year, from March 2017, the second phase of the law goes into effect: children under nine, shorter than 135 cm and weighing less than 33 kilos must use the appropriate child restraint system (according to their age, height and weight). To date this has only been a requirement for the under 4. With the new law, children aged 9-12 must travel in the back seat with the seat belt properly fastened.
At Fundación MAPFRE we recommend using booster seats or cushions during this time, especially those with a backrest, as it is very likely that the seat belt will not be able to be fastened snugly and a booster cushion helps to make this possible.
In addition to these changes, Chile has also increased the penalties for failing to place under-9s in child seats and for allowing children under 12 to travel in the front seats. This has been upgraded from a serious offense to a very serious one. This will entail a fine of between 1.5 and 3 UTM (around $66,000 and $132,000), plus the suspension of the driver's license for between 5 and 45 days.
In addition, on 31 May 2016 a new decree went into effect which made it mandatory for child restraint systems (CRS) sold in Chile to comply with the safety standards of the EU and the USA. The aim is to ensure that all child seats meet minimum quality requirements and have been subjected to all due safety tests.
To make the general public aware of the regulatory changes it is implementing, the Chilean government has launched an information campaign: #HazElClick. The aim is to explain the modifications that have taken place and inform people how children should travel in safety.
All the changes:
- Children under the age of 12 may not travel in the front seat of light vehicles. The exception is vehicles with a single cabin (i.e. one which only has front seats). This law went into force on 16 March 2016.
- A child restraint system is mandatory for children under the age of nine. This law goes into effect in March 2017.
- A height and weight of 1.35 meters and 33 kilos are established to use a child restraint system. Taxi cabs are excluded from this ruling. This law goes into effect in March 2017.
- The Law has raised the penalty for not placing a child in a child restraint system from a serious to a very serious offense (with a fine of between 1.5 and 3 UTM; i.e. $66,000 and $132,000), plus suspension of the driver's license for between 5 and 45 days.
- Drivers who allow children under the age of 12 to travel in the passenger seat will incur the same fine.
The following video explains the new changes: