In 2013 EASST’s partner organisation in Azerbaijan, Hayat NGO, launched its first project aimed at promoting the correct 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.
The importance of the project is clear. While seat belts and child restraints do not prevent crashes from taking place, they are key to reducing the severity of injury to vehicle occupants involved in a collision. 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. 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 still 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 may be impractical due to 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 such families revealed that only 17% currently use child restraints in their vehicle. Reasons for this low usage are connected to cost, poor enforcement, lack of awareness and lack of clear guidelines/law on the issue. Hayat NGO has therefore focused their efforts on three key elements in order to implement change – research into product cost and manufacturing, clarification of and amendments to the law, and increasing public awareness.
During 2014, awareness-raising events on the use of child restraints have been held at over 20 schools, hospitals and maternity wards. Posters and booklets have been widely distributed among young families containing guidance. This was accompanied by online and radio messages to the general public.
Thousands of people received information about the project via booklets, seminars, radio and other outlets
Research was conducted into the cost of child restraints and the impact this has on low-income families. The average cost of a child seat in Azerbaijan is 80-100 EUR. Given that the average income is 366 EUR it is understandable that cost is a leading cause of low child restraint use. With that in mind, Hayat NGO arranged meetings with several retailers, insurance companies, private car companies and others to raise this issue. Hayat NGO discovered that Azerbaijan imports all its child restraints and related products from Europe with no local manufacturers operating in Azerbaijan. Hayat plans to work in partnership with the companies it has now forged links with in order to address the issue of cost and finding a solution to providing more affordable child restraints to low- income families.
In close cooperation with the State Traffic Police Department, Hayat NGO has sought to clarify and amend the existing law on use of child restraints. 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. With this in mind, Hayat NGO representatives held a key meeting with MPs and the Chairman of the Social Policy Committee of the Parliament where it was agreed that the Parliamentary Committee would chair a round table inviting all involved parties to discussion. The result of this was the drafting of an action plan as follows:
- Looking through the Provision 37, Chapter I clause 6 and Provision 56 Chapter IX, clause 2 of the Traffic Law of the Republic of Azerbaijan
- Defining the age group of children under 12 according to the type of the safety seats. Defining of the age groups should have to be agreed with the Ministry of Health.
- Defining a particular fine for not carrying children in safety seats.
- Increasing control over vehicles and to check their child seat fastening equipment.
The plan includes clarification of each point separately and gives examples from the laws of other countries such as the UK. The revisions to the law have subsequently been submitted the parliament and progress in this area remains ongoing. The project has successfully initiated discussion between state agencies, non-governmental organisations and representatives of private enterprises for the first time on the use of child seats in vehicles. Its awareness-raising campaign has estimated to have reached many thousands of families and individuals, and amendments to the exisitng law plan have been submitted to the Parliament of the Republic of Azerbaijan following joint agency working.
Further updates of progress in this area will be posted on our website in due course.
Data from the WHO, FIA Foundation, GRSP, World Bank manual on Seat-belts and Child Restraints: www.who.int/roadsafety/projects/manuals/seatbelt/en/