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What can countries do to improve children's road safety?

¿Qué pueden hacer los países para mejorar la seguridad vial infantil?

15/01/2019

Children's road safety requires everyone's collaboration, starting with the parents and adults who have young children in their care and continuing with institutions and the authorities. Reaching Goal Zero in children's road safety is everyone's goal and is the reason why awareness campaigns are rolled out on a regular basis, as well as regulatory changes and standards.

We are heading in the right direction in Spain, with stable children's road accident rates which, except in certain circumstances, are gradually going down overall in terms of the global picture for the last decade. Nonetheless, Goal Zero should continue being a priority in all sectors and therefore we have gathered together a series of measures which different European Union countries are carrying out or have planned in order to reach zero victims.

This is something which, if we think about it, is in fact quite logical: countries with lower children's road accident rates tend to be countries with lower road accident rates for all age ranges. 

Therefore, improving children's road accident rates will be beneficial for everyone. This is achievable by combining measures for improving infrastructure (for example, improving road surfaces and signage), in order to promote more wide-ranging legislation, improving vehicle design and publicizing the proper use and fitting of child restraint systems. Accident prevention and awareness-raising campaigns are crucial for raising awareness in society of the importance of taking these measures seriously.

At the 16th International Conference on the Protection of Children in Cars, held in Munich, a series of recommended measures were specified for European Union member states, such as, for example:

  • Establishing a separate goal of reducing children's road accident rates on the highways, as well as serious injuries, and developing measures to support this.
  • Establishing specific children's road safety indicators in national road safety plans.
  • Establishing plans to comply with yearly goals for fulfillment of traffic laws, including mistakes in placing and securing children in child restraint systems suitable for their physical conditions.

However, the greatest progress will be made when mistakes in installing child car seats are eliminated as well as the errors made when putting the child in the seat. A properly installed and correctly used CRS reduces the risk of death in a road accident by 70% for children and between 54% and 80% in very young children.

This is a general problem at European level. This is not merely in terms of whether a CRS is used or not, but also whether it is used correctly or incorrectly. In Europe children continue dying due to traveling in unsuitable child car seats or because they are not using any kind of restraint device at all. Furthermore, even in countries with a more widespread use of these seats, mistakes in positioning the harnesses and seat belts have been found and this is making the problem worse. For example, in Sweden in 2012, out of the 93% of children using a CRS, only 43% were properly secured in their seats.

In Belgium in 2017, 74% of children traveling by car in a CRS were not in a seat suitable for their height and weight, or they were not properly secured in it, or they were traveling without any kind of safety restraint at all.

As we can see, this would be the first essential step in every country (the statistics are revealing in practically all of the European Union countries): raising awareness and educating the population about the best way to position a CRS and the correct way to adjust the belts and harnesses to ensure that children are traveling safely.

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