The Road Safety Authority (RSA) and An Garda Síochána are appealing to parents, guardians and teachers to ensure road safety, in particular seatbelt safety, is on the back to school lesson plan for all school children. RSA research shows that 10 per cent of children traveling in the back seat of vehicles are not using proper restraints such as child car seats or seat belts.
In 2017, the RSA conducted a nationwide study that observed seatbelt usage by 3,861 children both in the front and the rear seats of the vehicle. As part of the study, 93 per cent of children were observed wearing seatbelts, however when observing children in the rear of the vehicle only, compliance dropped to 89 per cent. While overall seatbelt usage rates by children has improved from 88 per cent of children observed wearing a seatbelt in 2016, the figures show that some parents are still allowing their children to travel in cars without being securely buckled in.
Commenting on the launch of this year’s back-to-school campaign, Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport, Shane Ross said: “With children returning to school over the coming weeks, traffic levels will increase, and motorists need to be mindful of our most vulnerable road users. I am asking parents to ensure any child traveling in their vehicle is using their seatbelt or the correct child restraint, and to educate children to be vigilant when out walking or cycling to school. It’s important to ensure they have all the correct safety gear; high-visibility jackets, lights and helmets for doing so and I must commend ESB Networks and the RSA for providing free high visibility jackets to all children starting primary school.”
Liz O’Donnell, Chairperson, Road Safety Authority said: “An RSA observational study carried out in 2017 shows that one in 10 children are still not being restrained properly by their parents or guardians in the back seat. This is very worrying especially when you consider that the most dangerous thing a child does each day is travel as a passenger in a car. A child cannot be responsible for their own safety. It’s up to us as responsible adults to do the right thing to ensure their safety. Every child traveling in a car must use a child car seat or wear a seatbelt. I am urging parents to ensure that children are safely and securely restrained, even on the shortest trip.”
Assistant Commissioner David Sheahan, An Garda Síochána, National Roads Policing Unit, said: “The non-wearing of seatbelts by children under 17 is not only against the law but is extremely dangerous. We continue to see fatalities where a vehicle occupant was not wearing a seatbelt and therefore had no protection in a collision. By law, all children under 150cms in height or 36kgs in weight must use a child restraint system (CRS) suitable for their height and weight while traveling in a car. Drivers have a legal responsibility to ensure that all passengers under 17 are appropriately restrained in the vehicle. The penalty for drivers who permit a child to travel in a vehicle without being properly restrained is three penalty points and €60 fixed charge.”
As well as the ‘seatbelt safety’ message, the RSA is reminding parents to ensure their child is visible when walking or cycling on the roads, or when waiting for the school bus.
For the eighth year running, the RSA and ESB Networks will distribute free high visibility vests to every child starting school in September. To date, this partnership has provided 880,000 children throughout the country with high visibility vests. Schools can now register online for the RSA’s ‘Back to School’ road safety packs which will be sent to primary schools nationwide over the coming months.
Paul Mulvaney, Executive Director, Networks Customer Delivery, ESB Networks, said: “We are delighted to partner with the RSA again to ensure that school children are visible on the roads. Safety is at the heart of what we do in ESB Networks and this partnership is just one element of our wider ‘Stay Safe. Stay Clear’ educational initiative for primary school children. This is the eighth year of our high visibility vest delivery programme, ensuring that our youngest road users can be seen when they are out and about. We encourage all schools to register for the ‘Back to School’ packs and to remain safe by being seen.”
Teachers are encouraged to register online at rsa.ie/backtoschool for the RSA ‘Back to School’ Pack for Primary Schools, which contains:
· A high-visibility vest for every child starting school in partnership with ESB Networks;
· ‘Going to School’ leaflets for junior infants entering education. This is a parent’s guide to getting children to school safely;
· A ‘Safe Cross Code’ promotional pack including a CD of the song and a poster with the words of the ‘Safe Cross Code’ song and dance to be taught in the classroom;
· The ‘Educational News’ newsletter;
· ESB Networks safety information leaflet about a fun, exciting and educational way for pupils from Infants to Sixth Class to discover the benefits of electricity, while learning to be safe around it.
The RSA has also issued recommendations to schools if they intend to hire a bus to carry children to sporting or extracurricular activities. The bus company concerned should be asked to confirm in writing that it is providing safe and legal transport services.
The RSA has compiled a useful Declaration of Compliance which outlines a checklist of important minimum legal requirements from bus owners. This can be downloaded and printed off from www.cvrt.ie.