The number of children under 14 years of age who lose their lives or are seriously injured on Spanish roads has been falling year after year In 1993, 2169 children were killed and injured in traffic accidents in Spain. Looking at data collected by the Spanish Traffic Agency (Dirección General de Tráfico) in 2019 (before the pandemic and the considerable reduction of mobility) to see the results of great efforts and work that has been achieved in recent years. In 2019 there were 290 fatalities and serious injuries to under 14 year-olds due to road accidents. This is an 86.63% reduction. Are we any closer to avoiding the tragedy, so no child looses his or her life on the roads? Of course, until Goal 0 is reached, any death is inadmissible.
Children began to have some level of safety in vehicles in 1990 with the Traffic Law, Circulation of Motor Vehicles and Road Safety and the General Traffic Regulations approved by Royal Decree 13/1992 of January 17. Here it was forbidden to drive with children under 12 years of age in the front seats unless they were in safety seats and other specifically approved devices. However, children under 12 years of age were allowed to travel in the rear seats without a CRS or a seat belt which today is unthinkable. In 1992, children under 2 years of age traveling on an adult's lap were not counted as passengers, an irresponsible attitude that put the child's life and the safety of other passengers at risk. In addition, children between the ages of 2 and 12 counted as a half seat and not a full seat.
If we analyze the statistics, as of 993 we see that, except for a few upturns, the trend curve shows a gradual and sustained decline. That year exactly, an order from the Ministry of the Interior established the obligation for children between 3 and 12 years of age and with a height under 150 cm to use a restraint system according to size and weight, but only if the vehicle was equipped with one. If this was not possible, children could ride in the rear seats with seat belts. As we can see, there was still a long way to go before reaching the current regulations, which are much more decisive in terms of how children should travel safely in a vehicle. There were however slight improvements.
To get to the current legislation regarding child road safety, first we need to take a look at the European Directive 2003/20/EC, approved in 2003 and in force since 2006, which obliges the use of seat belts and restraint systems by all drivers and occupants and children in particular. From that moment on, children under the age of 3 must always travel in a child car seat appropriate for their age and weight. Children over 3 years of age and less than 150 cm tall must also be restrained by child restraint devices.
In 2015 we get to the current regulations. To this extent, Royal Decree 667/2015, of 17 July, which entered into force on 1 October 2015, states that in vehicles with up to nine seats, including the driver's seat, underage passengers who are 135 cm tall or less must travel on the rear seats using an approved child restraint system suitable for their height and weight.
ARE WE CLOSER TO THE GOAL?
Of course, the ultimate achievement and goal of all these measures is to ensure that children travel as safely as possible when on the move. Despite all efforts, 32 people died in traffic accidents in 2019. Of course, far removed from the fatalities of 2003 (121), although still without reaching the expected and much desired Goal Zero.
The goal of the Traffic Agency and all the agents involved, is to ensure that no child dies on the road due to not using a child restraint system. The Road Safety Strategy 2011-2020 has 13 specific indicators and among them is to ensure that no child loses his or her life in a traffic accident without using a CRS. At the time, 48.5% of children involved in road crashes were not using any child restraint system when the accident occurred, as highlighted by the Traffic Agency itself.
Sadly, 2 children died as occupants of cars and vans in 2019 who were not using a child seat (24-hour data and only on interurban roads) and 4 were injured and taken to hospital. In 2020 no children under 12 years of age died without a CRS and 8 were taken to hospital, according to information provided by the DGT and also only taking into account interurban roads and 24 hours.
The truth is that the situation could be much worse.The last surveillance campaign carried out by the Traffic Agency in March 2021 detected 192 children not using a car seat in just one week. The previous year, 132 were detected in this same campaign, reflecting an increase in the number of children traveling unsafely. In 2019, 232 minors were detected traveling without a CRS and 189 in 2018.
These numbers highlight that there is still much work to be done to ensure that all children travel as safely as possible. Many of these accidents are avoidable, and so are their consequences. Let's not forget that injuries are reduced by up to 75% with the proper use of the child restraint system. Using a car seat is just not enough. It must be appropriate according to the child's weight and height, correctly installed and the child must be properly restrained.