Car accident injury prevention - Child restraints and the law
Almost 4,000 children suffered serious personal injuries on the road during 2004 but twice this amount are either killed or injured while travelling in cars every year. The main reason for this high injury and death toll is that children are not adequately restrained when travelling as passengers. Read an overview of car accidents.
An unrestrained child would be propelled forward with a force of 30 to 60 times their own body weight when involved in a 30mph car crash. They are also likely to be thrust around inside the car, causing injury to themselves and others, and could even be thrown through the windscreen or side window.
Many parents believe that their children will be protected from injury in the event of a car accident if they are wearing a seatbelt. However, the seatbelt is designed for people of 5ft or taller and could cause serious damage to your child's internal organs when combined with the force of a car crash. Read more about car accidents and seatbelts.
This is why a law came into force in 1993 which stated that child seats and boosters should be used by children in cars if fitted. The child restraint law will be updated as of 18th September 2006 to specify that children up to 135cm or up to the age of 12 will now be obliged to use child safety seats.
This change has come about with a view to reducing the number of children injured and killed in car accidents by up to a quarter. However, it seems that the people most affected by this change in the law - parents of children under twelve years old - have not been fully informed and so are not prepared.
There have been campaigns run both online and on the radio in the lead up to the event although those who either don't listen to the radio or don't have internet access are still none the wiser. Ironically, many have only heard about the new legislation via news reports questioning whether information has been made widely enough available for parents.
What is a suitable child restraint?
Basically, 'child restraint' is an umbrella term used for baby seats, child seats, booster seats and booster cushions. These range dramatically in price with booster cushions costing around £20 and child car seats costing as much as £200.
Most modern child restraints are designed specifically for different weight ranges and it is the weight of the child which dictates the type of restraint that must be used. The Department of Transport use the following as a guide:
- Group 0 and Group 0+ - rear facing baby seats for children up to 10kg and up to 13kg respectively (approx nine to twelve months old).
- Group l - forward facing child seats for children from 9kg to 18kg (approx nine months to four years).
- Group ll - booster seats for children from 15kg to 25kg (approx four to six years) or 15kg to 36kg.
- Group lll - booster cushions for children from 22kg to 36kg (approx six years plus).
Suitable child restraints must meet UN ECE Regulation 44.03 (or subsequent) type approval and be marked with a label showing an "E" and "44.03" or "03", the Group number or weight range for the child.
Why do children need child restraints?
As already mentioned, three point seatbelts are designed to protect the adult body from significant personal injury in a car accident but they could cause serious internal damage to a child, presuming a child's small body actually remains restrained by the belt. A child needs a child restraint that will cater for their particular stage of development.
An infant's skull is extremely flexible and the slightest impact could cause the skull and brain to be deformed significantly. An infant's ribcage is also very flexible and impact to the chest in a car accident could compress the chest wall onto the heart, lungs and abdominal organs.
Similarly, a child's skull is considerably weaker than that of an adult's and the bone making process is not complete until the age of 6 or 7 years.
A suitable child seat should provide protection from contact with the vehicle's interior, limit forward head movement in a frontal impact and provide protection in a side impact, distributing the force in a car crash over a wide area.
Alternatively, a booster seat may be used in conjunction with an adult seatbelt so that the child's seating position is raised and the seatbelt lies properly across the chest and low across the pelvis.
The seatbelt and child restraint law as it stands
The current law regarding seatbelts and child restraints is as follows:
- The driver must wear a seat belt if fitted.
- Children under three-years-of-age must wear a correct child restraint in the front seat and must use a child restraint if available in the back seat.
- Children aged three to eleven years and under 150cm in height, sitting in either the front or the back, must use a correct child restraint if available. If not, an adult seat belt must be worn.
- Children aged 12 or 13 (approx 5ft and above) sitting in either the front or back seat must wear a seat belt if fitted.
- Adult passengers (those aged 14 years and above) sitting in either the front or back seat must wear a seatbelt if fitted.
The new child restraint law
The new child restraint regulations as of 18th September 2006 are as follows:
- The driver must wear a seatbelt if available.
- Children up to three years of age must be carried in a correct child restraint.
- Children must be carried in a correct child restraint until they reach 4ft 5in (135cms) or 12 years of age (whichever comes first).
- There is an exemption to the rule for those aged three to 12 years if they are travelling in a licensed taxi or private hire vehicle.
- There is an exemption to the rule for those aged three to 12 years if they are travelling a short distance for reasons of an 'unexpected necessity'.
- There is an exemption to the rule for those aged three to 12 years if there are three child passengers but only room for two car seats.
- Parents face a fine of up to £500 if they do not abide by the new law.
- Children aged 12 or 13 years (approx 4ft 5in) sitting in either the front or the back must wear a seat belt if available.
- Adult passengers (those aged 14 years and above) sitting in either the front or the back must wear a seat belt if available.
If you require further details regarding the new child restraint legislation please visit http://www.thinkroadsafety.gov.uk/.
Fitting child restraints
A survey carried out by the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents (RoSPA) states that as many as 80% of child car seats are fitted incorrectly. This is particularly worrying as the amount of car restraints used in British vehicles is set to rocket as the new legislation comes in to force.
Child safety experts have expressed their concerns and have concluded that we must make sure now, more than ever, that our children's car seats are correctly fitted. This may mean having them installed by the manufacturer or other specialist.
In the future this problem should dissipate and the number of child passenger injuries and fatalities as a result of car accidents should diminish as an innovative system is already being installed in cars to ensure that car seats are fitted securely.
This system, the International Standards Organisation FIX (or ISOFix), will display a green light when a car seat has been fitted correctly to the main structure of the car. Some child seats already have ISOFix fittings but it may take up to ten years for the majority of cars to comply.
For advice from the Department of Transport on fitting child seats please visit http://www.thinkroadsafety.gov.uk/.
Making a car accident claim today
If you have been involved in a non-fault car accident and suffered a personal injury then you may be entitled to make a no win no fee compensation claim.
The personal injury specialists here at The Claims Solicitors have extensive experience of dealing with car accident claims and are proud to hold an excellent success rate.
We offer a no win, no fee service. This means that our clients donít pay a penny in up front costs. Whatís more, if you lose your case, you wonít pay anything at all. No win, no fee, is exactly what it sounds like.
If you require free legal advice or would like to start the claim process today fill out one of our online forms or give us a call on 0800 197 32 32.