Initiative against child accidents.

When parents endanger their children:
How secure are Austria's children as passengers in cars?

Every year, accidents with severe consequences happen due to lacking or incorrect child safety measures in cars. "The right child seat, for every chid, for every journey," is therefore the appeal of the KFV (Austrian Road Safety Board) and the AUVA (General Accidents Insurance Company) at a joint press conference as part of the "Vision Zero 2020 - fatal child accidents are preventable!" initiative. On average, three children are injured daily as passengers in cars. Targeted information on particularly problematic situations, and wrong handling, purchasing, fitting and use of child seats, illustrates dangers and hands-on tips from experts serve to prevent severe accidents in future.

Vienna, 27. June 2014

„There are no compromises when it comes to the proper securing of children in cars. Consistent use, correct handling and parents as role models are crucial factors in road traffic," appeals Dr. Orthmar Thann, Director of KFV, on Friday morning together with KommR Renate Römer, Chairlady of AUVA, at a joint press conference. A simulated rear-end collision accident with a seat belt simulator demonstrated the enormous forces affecting the human body during an accident. KFV and AUVA view the latest, very positive child safety rate of around 95 percent in Austria as an appeal to drivers to be continuously aware of their responsibility for children riding in the car. Because the probability of a fatal accidents is almost nine times higher for unsecured passengers in a car than it is for seatbeld wearing passengers. In this year's "VISION ZERO 2020" initiative for child accident prevention in road traffic, the KFV and AUVA are thus directing their focus on sensitising drivers to underestimated dangerous situations, such as insufficient or incorrect securing of children when driving at slow speeds or for short stretches.

False sense of security at low speeds and routine routes

Many times, an incorrect assessment of speed can lead to negligence when it comes to securing children in the car, which can have disastrous consequences. "In a car accident at the relatively low speed of 50 km/h, a child would be exposed to a force 30 times that of its own body weight. This is comparable to falling from a third-storey window," Thann explains the dangers for unsecured children in the car. Besides low speeds, AUVA also notes an incorrect assessment of dangers by adults particularly on familiar driving routes. "Rushing in the morning, stress, excessive speed as well as familiar and often short routes can make the daily drive to school or kindergarten in particular a highly underestimated risk. Doing without the seatbelt, unbuckling too soon or getting out on streets with bad visibility causes hundreds of accidents on the way to school each year," says Römer. What is also problematic here is the negative role model many adults provide by driving without a seatbelt themselves: "Only when parents demonstrate consistency in correct safety in the car to their children, buckling up will become a matter of course for the next generation," Römer appeals to the sense of responsibility of adults.

Correct child safety: 70 percent reduction of severely injured children since 1999

For 20 years, legal parameters have mandated the securing of children using the appropriate child restraint in the car. Any violation is a recordable offence and not only incurs a fine of 5,000 euros and - as part of the recording system - means taking part in a child safety course, but above all it is life-threatening, as long-term studies by the KFV have shown. Since 1999, a direct positive correlation can be observed between the annual increase of the child safety rate - from around 70 percent to around 90 percent today - and the reduction of severe injuries in children. Nevertheless, around three children suffer injuries each day as passengers in cars and in 2013 three children died in accidents. Child seats cannot provide a 100 percent safety guarentee, but they do significantly increase a child's chances of surviving an accident without severe injuries or lasting damages. "Evaluations of accident reports form the years 2008 to 2012 show that children under the age of 14 suffered injuries particularly in the critical head area (15 percent) and the sensitive neck vertebra (10 percent). In cases where child safety measures had been implemented correctly, injuries were comparatively mild, e.g. contusions (24 percent) or broken bones (18 percent)," says Thann.

Appropriate child seat model and correct fitting for optimum safety function

„The positive trends in child safety on the road make it clear that information must now be provided primarily as regards the ideal selection, correct fitting and appropriate handling of child seats," explains Thann. Every model must meet ECE standards in order to comply with legal requirements. Furthermore, all models are divided into weight and age categories. For babies, the categories 0 (up to 10 kg), and 0+ (up to 13 kg/15 months) apply. The new ECE R129 child seat regulation mandates that children up to 15 months of age must be secured in a rearward facing seat. The models for toddlers correspond to category I (9-18 kg) and for older children the categories II (15-25 kg) and III (22-36 kg) apply. Children and young people taller than 150 cm or older than 14 years need to use the seatbelt provided in cars. Given the multitude of models, it should also be considered that not every seat is suitable for every car. When purchasing a seat, KFV and AUVA therefore recommend testing the seat in your own car under real-life conditions with your child and asking an expert for advice on correct installation. Because this is where mistakes in child safety still happen most frequently. Ideally, the ISOFIX installation system should be used, where standardised connectors ensure that the seat is directly and firmly attached to the vehicle body. Caution is warranted when placing child seats on the passenger seat in a rearward-facing positions. Here, the passenger seat airbag must be deactivated at all costs. Generally speaking, before every journey you should check that your child's seatbelt is engaged correctly and tightly (remove jackets and puffy items of clothing) and that the seat is installed firmly and correctly.

Child safety in the car – VISION ZERO 2020

With the KFV collision simulation, the KFV is implementing a further activity as part of the „VISION ZERO 2020 – No child killed or severely injured in Austria!“ initiative. According to the motto „Full attention - Zero accidents!“, creative activities and targeted information are to increase awareness for protecting out little ones and child accidents are to be prevented through practical prevention measures. "Accident reports and statistical evaluations illustrate dangerous situations and problematic behaviours in leisure activities and on the road, which are often understimated. We want to counteract this through custom-tailored education campaigns, because raising awareness is the first and foremost step when it comes to accident prevention," concludes Thann.