Child & Car Road Safety

By Autograph Contracts

Before going into more depth on generic vehicle safety and the active steps manufacturers are taking to increase performance and reduce causalities, it’s worth discussing the topic of child car safety.

In 2010, there were 416 children between the age of 0-5 killed or seriously injured on British roads. It’s at a young age when children should begin learning about the dangers of the road and how best to keep safe and as a parent or carer, there’s plenty you can do to assist with this.

For instance, nurseries and schools will teach children best practices for the road and you should also lead by example. Remember, children copy the behaviour of those around them and therefore, you should be setting a good example whether driving or on foot.

One of the biggest dangers facing children on foot is they’re not able to correctly judge the speed of a moving vehicle. They also are unaware of how close or far away the vehicle really is. Compared to our European neighbours, child safety on the road is actually very good - but for pedestrians we’re probably a little lacking.

Essentially, children need to learn how to understand the dangers of the road and get a better picture of the varying traffic they will encounter. One way to deal with this head on is to discuss the importance of traffic whenever out and about on foot.

To help children better appreciate the dangers of oncoming traffic, try getting them to spot various vehicles that might come your way; such as a car, bus, taxi or lorry. You should also encourage children to talk about the colours of vehicles, which vehicles carry more people and which way the vehicle’s going. This will all register in their mind and improves their perception for later encounters.

Child Car Seats & Safety Belts

When it comes to child safety in vehicles, much has to be made of both seat belts and child seats. These are two basic components in any vehicle carrying children, which will keep them safe, preventing injures and even death.

However, despite the importance of both seatbelts and child seats, there seems to be much confusion when it comes to what’s legal or illegal. Ideally you’d want your child to be safe, so there should never be a fear of over protection.

So what are the legal requirements? Well, when a car is fitted with seatbelts, every passenger must have theirs clipped in – including children. Children of a certain height must also have a booster seat. Motorists face the possibility of being fined if a child is travelling without a seatbelt plugged in. If the passenger is over 14, they themselves face the repercussions.

Children up to a certain height must also have extra protection in the form of restraints, including boosters. The child can only wear a normal seatbelt once they’ve reached their 12th birthday or 135cm in height – whichever is first.

In buses and coaches with restraints fitted, passengers are also responsible for ensuring these are worn. Of course, in regular public transport buses there are typically no seatbelts fitted.

See the table below outlining British law regarding children travelling in vehicles.

PersonFront SeatRear SeatResponsibility
DriverSeat belt must be worn if fittedDriver
DriverCorrect child restraint must be usedThe correct child restraint must be used. If one is not available in a licensed taxi or private hire vehicle, the child may travel unrestrained.Driver
Child from third birthday up to 135cms in height (approx 4’5”) or 12th birthday, whichever is reach firstCorrect child restraint must be used

Where seat belts are fitted, the correct child restraint must be used.

The child must use an adult belt in the back seat if the correct child restraint is not available either:

- In a licensed taxi or private hire vehicle

- For a short distance in an unexpected necessity

- If two occupied child restraints prevent fitting a third

A child three years and over may travel unrestrained in the back seat of a vehicle if seat belts are not fitted in the rear.

Child 12 or 13, or over 135cm (approx 4’5”) in heightSeat belt must be worn if fittedSeat belt must be worn if fittedDriver
Passengers aged 14 years and overSeat belt must be worn if fittedSeat belt must be worn if fittedPassenger

There should be no discussion on the importance of safety restraints in a vehicle. If a child fails to wear one, the consequences can be quite simply devastating. If you brake sharply or suffer a collision, the result could be the child thrown from their seat and suffer severe injuries to not only themselves, but potentially others in the vehicle too.

When purchasing a car seat for your child, size is very important. As such it’s worthwhile to try before you buy. When purchasing you should also ask for a demonstration of how the seat works, ensuring you’re able to safely secure it into the vehicle and then strap the child tightly.

Whenever fitting the seat make sure to follow these instructions carefully and give yourself plenty of time to do this. You don’t want to be in a rush and fail to secure the seat correctly.

As discussed earlier in this guide, children take in loads of what they see around them, so always wear a safety belt yourself and encourage children to do this on every journey, even if you’re just nipping around the corner.

The Green Cross Code

The Green Cross Code is taught all over the UK as a way to better educate children on road safety. Many schools will discuss the elements of the code, but as parents you should also be aware of this so you’re able to practice with children and ensure it’s core principles are implemented into everyday life.

It shouldn’t just be a case of memorising the words. Children and adults should know and follow the code to better equip themselves for what’s around them.

1. Find a safe place to cross the road

This is the first step in the Green Cross Code and encourages children wanting to cross the road to do so in as safe a place as possible. There are loads of places that are safe for children to cross the road, so point these out whenever out and about with them.

Examples of safe places to cross the road would include: subways, footbridges, zebra crossings, pelican crossings & islands.

If none of the above can be located, choose a place to cross where drivers will easily see you. Avoid crossing between parked cars, at road bends or near the top of a hill.

2. Stop before the kerb

Before attempting to cross the road you should stop from the edge of the kerb and ensure you have a good sight of all traffic around.

3. Look and listen for traffic

Whilst waiting at the kerb, look in all directions for approaching traffic. You should also listen carefully as the chances are you may hear fast moving vehicles, such as motorbikes, before they become visible.

4. Let all traffic pass first

Never try to cross the road by dodging traffic or running across in an effort to beat vehicles. Instead, children should be taught patience, waiting and watching carefully until the traffic stops or clears before crossing. At pedestrian crossings vehicles should stop, but this isn’t always the case, so be aware of motorists not following to the Highway Code.

5. When safe to do so, cross the road

When crossing the road continue to be alert for oncoming traffic. You should also be aware of cyclists using the road. Cross in a straight line rather than diagonally and don’t run.

When teaching children about road safety and the importance of following the Green Cross Code:

  • - Set a good example for children to follow at all times.
  • - Ensure to show children the best practices of the Green Cross Code whenever out.
  • - Encourage the child to take the lead and show you what they know.
  • - Always point out possible dangers of the road and highlight the safest areas in which to cross.
  • - Try to use pedestrian crossings whenever possible.
  • - Put across the importance of not using a mobile phone to either call or text when crossing the road or walking.
  • - Avoid crossing between parked cars.