School buses save lives

Keeping Children Safe in Traffic
OECD Observer

Did you know that the biggest killer of children in many OECD countries is road-related crashes? Keeping Children safe in Traffic notes that seatbelts remain one of the most effective crash protection devices ever installed in motor vehicles.

Furthermore, it cites various studies showing that safety seats which are correctly installed and used for children can reduce the risk of death by 70% for infants and 54% for toddlers. In one US study, it was estimated that 458 lives of children under five years could have been saved in 2000 if the children had been protected by a safety seat.

The numbers are horrific. Since 1983, when the last OECD report on transport safety and children was published, an estimated 100,000 children have died in road-related crashes. In 2000, more than 5,000 children died in road traffic accidents in OECD countries. This actually represents progress, as the number of child fatalities went down by 50% between 1990 and 2000, as opposed to only 20% for road fatalities in the OECD as a whole. Yet, according to Keeping Children Safe in Traffic, one out of every 2,100 children will die as a result of a traffic crash before the age of 15, and a considerably higher number will suffer from severe injuries or lifelong disability.

Keeping Children Safe in Traffic finds that Swedish roads are the safest for children, with a fatality rate at about 1.5 children per 100,000, and Korea has a relatively high rate, at about 7.5 children per 100,000. Oddly, countries with more cars have lower fatality rates for pedestrians. Korea, for instance, has only 156 cars per 1,000 inhabitants, whereas Sweden has 422.

Keeping Children Safe in Traffic points out that ultimately the safety of children depends on stringent enforcement of traffic laws, good education and safe engineering of traffic and vehicles.

Education would help too. If you drive your kid to school, why not opt for the school bus instead? They have an excellent safety record, thanks to special construction and operation standards, including seat design that offers exceptional protection, plus safety education, driver training, vehicle maintenance and school bus route planning. Though more could be fitted with seatbelts, very few children die or get hurt on a school bus, Keeping Children safe in Traffic says. In the US, approximately 23.5 million children travel on one of the 450,000 public school buses for an estimated 4.3 billion miles a year. Each year, an average of only 10 school bus occupants die in collisions. In fact, statistics show that children are at greater risk of injury or death from boarding or disembarking from a school bus than from riding in it.

The OECD Observer would like to offer its condolences to the families and friends of the victims of the recent bus crash in Dublin.

©OECD Observer No 242, March 2004

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