Of all the Latin American countries analyzed in the Fundación MAPFRE study “Road Safety for Children. Use of child restraint systems. Analysis of the situation in Latin America and the Caribbean”, Mexico and Brazil account for 50% of children who die in traffic accidents. There is an explanation for this alarming figure, and it is necessary to act efficiently and rapidly to instill essential road safety awareness in these countries's societies, not only in drivers but also across the different institutions and associations related to road safety.
In spite of the high number of child deaths in traffic accidents, the mortality rate in Mexico is not the highest in Latin America and the Caribbean, though it still stands at 8.5%, well above the European average of 4.7%. The main reasons for this high mortality rate (in percentage and absolute terms) lie in the lack of awareness of the use of Child Restraint Systems and failures at a regulatory level in this North American country.
Main failures with regard to road safety in Mexico
Generally speaking, the most significant failures are at a regulatory level, given that the current framework is both weak and incomplete. For example, there is no nationwide regulation, only state-specific laws (Mexico, Monterrey, Yucatan). Each state lays down particular laws that, for reasons already mentioned, are inadequate or too vague in their objectives:
- For Mexico: drivers may not transport children under 12 years old in the front seats of vehicles. In the back seats, child seats must be used for children up to five years old.
- For Yucatan: Any vehicle with four or more wheels should have a child seat to transport passengers of up to five years old, which must be positioned on the back seat when such a seat is available. Children aged five and over who weigh less than 10 kilos must always travel in a rear-facing child seat.
- For Monterrey: Children up to four years old and/or under 95 cm tall must use a child seat and wear a safety belt and must travel on the back seat if the vehicle has one.
As you can see, the rules are rather imprecise and there are some major discrepancies with our own regulations, especially in terms of the arbitrary values and lack of consensus between regions and because rules are based on age and height without considering weight.
Furthermore, there is no regulation in Mexico that governs the requirements of Child Restraint Systems, which puts them at the bottom of the list of Latin American and Caribbean countries in this respect. Most child car seats in Mexico are imported from the USA, Europe and Asia. These imported seats comply with the safety regulations in their country of origin, obviously, but every country should have its own regulations in force as this would result in more exhaustive and comprehensive legislation.
Having said that, Mexico does stand out in terms of its awareness-raising campaigns, with noteworthy examples such as the Mexican Initiative for Road Safety (IMESEVI) instigated by the National Center for Accident Prevention of the Ministry of Health. The federal government is also organizing skills training and workshops on this subject in conjunction with the Pan-American Health Organization (PAHO), also through the Ministry of Health. However, if this is not properly supported by robust legislation, it is not enough to improve road safety in Mexico.