EASST’s Azerbaijan partner, Hayat NGO, has launched the first phase of its project to increase the use of child restraints in Azerbaijan. The project, funded by EASST, aims to clarify and amend the current law on child restraints and to encourage the correct use of child restraints among families.

Failure to correctly use a seat-belt or child restraint is a major risk factor for road traffic deaths and injuries among vehicle occupants. While seat-belts and child restraints do not prevent crashes from taking place, they play a major role in reducing the severity of injury to vehicle occupants involved in a collision. An occupant’s chance of survival increases dramatically when appropriately restrained.

The effect of child restraints varies depending on the type of restraint used. A child up to 4 years of age has a 50% lower risk of injury in a forward-facing child restraint and 80% lower in a rear-facing seat. This compares with injury reduction of only 32% when an adult seat-belt is worn (7). For children aged 5–9 years, child restraints reduce injury by 52%, whereas for seatbelts alone the reduction is only 19%. For older children aged 10–14 years seat-belts reduce injury by 46%.

Choosing and installing the appropriate child restraint system is important. Even in countries where the use of child restraints is high, such as Sweden, the United Kingdom and the United States, restraints are frequently inappropriately used or misused. For instance, a child may be restrained in the wrong system for its age or weight, or the straps or harnesses may not be adequately secured or entirely left undone, thus placing the child at an increased risk of both fatal and non-fatal injuries. Appropriate child restraint use may be limited by access and cost, or simply be impractical because of a large family size. In addition, a number of decisions about what seat to choose, where to place it and how to install it need to be made by parents. A lack of awareness about the benefits of appropriate and correctly used restraints can jeopardize their effectiveness.

For Hayat NGO, the key target group of their project is young families. An initial survey among families with children under 12 revelead that only 17% currently use child restraints in their vehicle. Hayat NGO is working to increase this figure, and awareness of the correct use of child restraints, via promotional activities at schools, nurseries and maternity wards.

In the UK, the law on child restraints contains specific detail on the positioning of the restraint, the height and age of the child, the type of vehicle and the journey. Such specifics are absent from the current law in Azerbaijan which states only that children under 12 must be secured by a child restraint. Part of the project is to propose amendments to the exisiting law. The second phase of the project will see Hayat work with automobile retail stores and insurance companies with a view to providing more affordable child restraints to families.

Data from the WHO, FIA Foundation, GRSP, World Bank manual on Seat-belts and Child Restraints: www.who.int/roadsafety/projects/manuals/seatbelt/en/