Children unrestrained in a car is a form of 'child abuse' says Road Safety Expert

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Leaving a child unrestrained in a car is tantamount to ‘child abuse’ according to a road safety expert.

This comes on the foot of a recent photograph tweeted by the Gardaí of a seven-seater car which was stopped with four children under twelve years of age sitting in the back and not one restrained in child safety seat or seatbelts.

By law, children under twelve years of age should be restrained in a child car seat but the children found by the Gardaí unrestrained in the back of the car should at least have been restrained by regular seat belts which would have at least provided some form of protection if they were involved in a crash.

Although the tweet got some attention, many felt that this behaviour is quite common still and many drivers are putting children's lives at risk.

Are these situations isolated or are they more widespread? Well, every year the RSA (Road Safety Authority) conducts an observational study to check if drivers and their passengers, front and back, are wearing their seatbelts.


In a study from 2015, the RSA observed more than 14,000 drivers and 10,000 passengers in the vicinity of 28 schools and the results showed that more than nine-out-of-10 drivers and passengers are wearing their seatbelt but the back seat rate of seat belt wearing was only at 80 per cent.

This would suggest that one-in-ten children are not restrained in the car at all. This is shocking but the situation is a lot better than in recent decades such as in the early 2000’s four-out-of-ten children were not being retrained in the car.

No parent willingly puts their child's life in danger but that is exactly what they are doing when they allow their child to travel unrestrained in a vehicle.

The absolutely shocking part is that these drivers, who are most likely parents, are wearing their own seatbelt but are perfectly happy to allow their children to be in the back of the car without any restraint whatsoever.

Children cannot be responsible for their own safety so it's up to parents and guardians to treat their children's safety as paramount when travelling in the car.
“I'm afraid there is no other way to put this than to classify the failure to strap children in as a form or child abuse. Which is why drivers, who don't strap their children in, now face three penalty points and an €80 fine.” have recently reviewed the law on child seats and restraints and just to recap, all children under twelve should be restrained in an appropriate child restraint that's suitable for their height and weight.

Age alone is not used as the sole guide as each child is different in height and weight. The important rule of thumb is not to let your child progress to using a seatbelt until they reach a height of 150cm or they reach a weight of 36kg.

If your child is below any of these figures they should be using a high back booster seat and although you can by law use a booster cushion in this country at the moment, it is recommended to keep them restrained in a high-back booster seat until they are ready to use a seatbelt, as it offers better crash protection, especially in side impact crashes.

If you have any doubts about your child's car seat visit where you will find lots of advice and information videos as well as the 'Check it Fits' child car seat road show which makes its visits all over Ireland throughout the year.



Justin Kavanagh
Justin Kavanagh is a recognised leader in automotive intelligence and vehicle data supply to the entire motor industry. He has almost 20 years experience in building systems from the ground up. As the Managing Director of Vehicle Management System, he understands the need and importance of trustworthy and reliable vehicle history and advice to both the trade and the public.
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