More than a billion people worldwide live with some kind of disability, according to the World Health Organization (WHO). Many of these are children, and naturally it affects how they should travel by car. Due to International Day of Persons with Disabilities, which is being held on the 3 December, we will cover the topic of traveling by car with children with 'special needs’.
We should be aware that this ‘special need’ may be a debilitating health problem, a disease, an injury or due to malnutrition, and may be either a short-term or permanent disability. We understand children with special needs to be children that have some kind of specific medical condition requiring special care when they are traveling. The disability may not necessarily be only physical and could also be a psychological, emotional, or behavioral disorder.
The way in which children with special needs should travel by car should be carefully handled. We should bear in mind how vulnerable they are. For example, developing children's skulls are much softer, which makes them more susceptible to suffering serious cranial injury. For this reason, it is crucial that they travel in a suitable child restraint system and that it is adapted to their needs.
As covered in the report entitled ‘Children with special needs and their safety in vehicles’ (Spanish), drawn up by Fundación MAPFRE, it is estimated thatthere are at least 60 thousand children with special needs in Spain in terms of being transported by car. It is of course highly likely that this number is in fact much higher.
Advice on how to ensure they travel safely
- We should realize that it all depends on the type of disability or needs of the child. In many cases children with special needs can use conventional child seats providing that they have been correctly approved. This is something to take into account whether we have purchased the child seat in an establishment or if it has been adapted. The child restraint system should be duly approved in order not to compromise the child's safety. We can therefore be sure that the seat has passed all the required tests and that it is a safe CRS to use.
- Generally speaking, children who do not have difficulties bending their hips to sit downand can breathe normally if they are seated in an upright or semi-upright position can use conventional child car seats. In the case of children weighing more than 10kg they will need to be able to maintain muscle control of the head and neck since this type of child car seat is more rigid.
- As mentioned, on other occasions it is a good idea or an absolute necessity to use a special seat adapted to the specific conditions of the child. In many cases conventional seats cannot offer the best protection for the child in the event of an accident and could even worsen a preexisting condition. Unfortunately, such a CRS can be harder to come across and more expensive to purchase.
- In ‘Children's Road Safety’ we have a specific section dedicated to offering recommendations on how to travel by car according to the child's needs.
- Depending on the specific needs of the child, we may have to find a specific type of child restraint. In this graphic we provide you with a few types of child car seats that may be useful: