Parents urged to wise up on child seats as part of national Beep Beep! Day campaign to save little lives

20 August 2013

Brake, the road safety charity
news@brake.org.uk 

Brake is calling on parents to wise up to keeping their kids safe in their cars as a survey out today shows only one in four (26%) know the law on child and booster seats. Only one in six (16%) said they would use a child seat in cars until their child was 150cm tall, the height recommended by safety experts.

The calls come as Brake's annual Beep Beep! Day campaign kicks off, which aims to save little lives on roads. Over the next three months, 200 nurseries, pre-schools and children's centres are running Beep Beep! Days; special days that help teach tots and their parents about road safety and raise awareness about the need for drivers to slow down to protect families. Brake is urging more to sign up.

The survey of 1,000 parents of children under 10 by Brake also found:

  • A shocking one in 20 (5%) said they never use a child or booster seat;
  • More than a quarter (26%) have used a child seat or booster seat that did not fit properly;
  • Half (47%) don't always ensure their child uses an appropriate child seat or booster seat when travelling in a taxi or someone else's car;
  • More than a quarter (27%) have used a second hand child seat or booster seat, which is not recommended by safety experts.

Every year more than 700 children under eight are killed or seriously injured on roads in the UK [1]. Child restraints greatly reduce the risk of death or injury in a collision [2]; if children are not properly restrained they will be thrown from their seat with great force, even in low-speed crashes, into the seat in front, the door, or through the windscreen.

UK law states that parents must use a child or booster seat until their child is either 12 years old or 135cm tall. However, Brake urges parents to follow best practice advice [3] and wait until their child reaches 150cm before letting their child travel without a child booster seat..

Brake is also calling on parents of children age two -seven to encourage their nursery, pre-/infant school, or children's centre to hold a Beep Beep! Day to spread this and other life-saving messages to parents and start teaching tots and infants the road safety basics. (More about Beep Beep! Days below).

Journalists, photographers and film crews are invited to attend a filming and photo opportunity at a Beep Beep! Day
WHEN: 20 August at 10am
WHERE: Sharlston Children's Centre, Hammer Lane, Sharlston Common, Wakefield, WF4 1DH
WHAT: 30 children, aged three to five will be chalking out a road in their playground and practising crossing while holding hands, and making brightly coloured posters using hand paint. Car seat advice and demonstrations for parents will also be provided.
The event will be attended by the bereaved family of Owen Wightman, 6, who was killed by a speeding driver (see below), a Brake representative, and representatives of the Children's Centre who are available for interview. Media arrange to attend or set up pre-recorded interviews by contacting Siobhan MacMahon on news@brake.org.uk.

Julie Townsend, deputy chief executive, Brake, said: "Every year, more than 700 young children are killed or seriously injured on our roads. These sudden and violent events end lives that have barely begun, and devastate whole families and communities, who struggle to come to terms with such senseless harm being inflicted on a young child. They are not accidents we must learn to live with: every child death and serious injury on roads is preventable. It's vital that parents, carers and of course the wider driving public understand how best to protect children on roads, and worrying to find common misunderstanding about child car seats. We recommend parents always use a correctly-fitted suitable child or booster seat until a child is 150cm tall."

"We're also urging more early years educators to run Beep Beep! Days, to start engaging young children in road safety, and crucially to get life-saving messages across to parents and the wider community."

Case studies
Six-year-old Owen Wightman of Kettlethorpe, Wakefield, was out playing near his home on 18 June 2011, when he was killed by a speeding driver. Owen was crossing the road to return home when Peter Renshaw, 22, of Huddersfield, struck him at 57mph in a 30mph zone. The car travelled 23 metres down the road with Owen on the bonnet, before Owen was thrown to the kerb. He died at the scene.

Joanne Wightman, Owen's mother, said: "Any parent can understand how devastating it is to lose a child, especially in such a sudden and violent way. I urge all drivers and parents to follow Brake's advice and do everything they can to protect children whether they are a passenger in a vehicle or out and about in their local area."

One-year-old Finlay Woods of Higham Park, London, was killed in 2008, by a drink and drug driver. Finlay was being pushed in his pram by his grandmother when Katie Gutierrez-Perez, 40, crashed into them. Finlay was taken to hospital but it was later found that he had died at the scene.

Tina Woods, Finlay's mother, said: "Our lives changed forever when Finlay was killed; that day had a huge effect on the other children emotionally. His death not only affected my family but the community as well: there were lots of adults and children that knew and loved him from the school who were there that day and saw the crash. Nothing is worse than losing a child, so I'd urge all parents to do everything they can to learn about keeping their child safe on roads, and remember that as a driver you have your child's life in your hands."

Joanne will be attending the launch, and will be available for interview. Tina will not be attending the launch but will also be available for interview on the day. Please contact Siobhan on news@brake.org.uk to arrange.

About Beep Beep! Day
In 2012, more than 17,500 children took part in a Beep Beep! Day. Brake is hoping to reach even more children in 2013. Nurseries, playgroups, children's centres and childminders can run a Beep Beep! Day on whatever day is best for them, although most take place during the autumn, including many in Road Safety Week (18-24 November 2013). Nurseries receive a pack of resources to help them run road safety activities and promote road safety to parents and the community.

Beep Beep! Days involve activities such as creating a poster of hand prints saying 'We hold hands', experimenting with toy cars to learn the words stop and go, and singing road safety songs. Activities are designed to help children to start understanding road safety, and to emphasise to parents and other adults their responsibilities in protecting children.

Sponsorship raised by children taking part helps Brake provide support services for families bereaved and injured by road crashes and run community road safety campaigns.

Want to run a Beep Beep! Day? If you work with young children age 2-7, call the Beep Beep! Day team on 01484 550061, email beepbeep@brake.org.uk or fill in our online form. Brake supplies posters, stickers, sponsorship envelopes, and lots of advice about promoting road safety.

More advice for parents
When your child starts to walk with you around your community, talk to them about how they must always hold your hand. If your child is likely to pull away from you, use safety reins or a wrist strap. Hold hands until your child is at least eight, or longer depending on their development.

Make sure they understand the meaning of stop, traffic, danger, look, listen, walk don't run, and other key words. Encourage your child's nursery or playgroup to teach road safety through a Beep Beep! Day. Your child's learning will be more effective if they are taught about road safety at school as well as at home.

Child seats are not just for infants. Children have delicate bodies and should use a child seat that's suitable for their size and weight until they are 150cm tall (nearly five feet). Use new, modern seats and make sure they are fitted properly. Ensure their head is supported well - whiplash can cause spinal injury or even kill.

Also make sure your child is safe on their nursery or school trip. Ensure they are in a safe, modern coach with three-point belts and an appropriate child seat (if needed), rather than in the cheapest possible bus only fitted with lap belts, Lap belts are don't offer adequate protection in a crash. If you have concerns, discuss them with your child's school and stand up for your child's right to safety on trips.

It is just as important that your child is appropriately restrained in other people's cars, and driven slowly and safely. If you are unsure, don't let them go. In some situations it might be socially awkward, but it's crucial to stand up for your child's right to be safe, always.

Survey results in full
Q1. When did you stop, or do you expect to stop, using a child seat or booster seat for your child or children in cars?
6% said at age 6
6% said at age 7
8% said at age 8
6% said at age 9
9% said at age 10
6% said at age 11
5% said at age 12
2% said at age 13
29% said I'll wait until they are 135cm tall, regardless of age
15% said I'll wait until they are 150cm tall, regardless of age
5% said my child doesn't use a child seat or booster seat in cars
3% said my child never travels in cars

Q2. Have you ever (even once or twice) used a child seat or booster seat that didn't properly fit?
10% said yes – due to my child outgrowing the seat
9% said yes – due to having to borrow a seat
4% said yes – due to not being able to fit it properly
1% said yes – due to accidentally buying the wrong size/type
2% said yes – for other reasons
70% said no, never – I've always used one that fitted exactly
4% said no, because my child never travels in cars

Q3. Have you always ensured your child was using an appropriate child seat or booster seat when travelling in someone else's car or a taxi?
44% said yes, every time
30% said yes, most of the time
10% said sometimes
7% said no, I haven't made sure of this
9% said my child has never travelled in someone else's car or a taxi

Q4. Have you ever used a second-hand child seat or booster seat for your child?
27% said yes
73% said no

Q5. What is the current law on child restraints?
6% said children must normally use the correct child restraint until they are three
9% said children must normally use the correct child restraint until they are eight
11% said children must normally use the correct child restraint until they are 10 or 125cm tall
21% said children must normally use the correct child restraint until they are 11 or 135cm tall
26% said children must normally use the correct child restraint until they are 12 or 135cm tall
9% said children must normally use the correct child restraint until they are 12 or 150cm tall
7% said children must normally use the correct child restraint until they are 125cm tall
11% said children must normally use the correct child restraint until they are 150cm tall

About Brake
Brake is an independent road safety charity. Brake exists to stop the five deaths and 63 serious injuries that happen on UK roads every day and to care for families bereaved and seriously injured in road crashes. Brake runs awareness-raising campaigns, community education programmes, events such as Road Safety Week (18-24 November 2013), and a Fleet Safety Forum, providing advice to companies. Brake's support division cares for road crash victims through a helpline and other services.

Road crashes are not accidents; they are devastating and preventable events, not chance mishaps. Calling them accidents undermines work to make roads safer, and can cause insult to families whose lives have been torn apart by needless casualties.

End notes
[1] Reported casualties by age, road user type and severity, Great Britain, 2011, Department of Transport, 2012 – 19 children aged 2 – 7 were killed, and 683 were seriously injured in 2011.
[2] Global status report on road safety, World Health Organisation, 2013
[3] Think! And RoSPA, www.childcarseats.org.uk