Press Release - April 7th 2004: European countries combine efforts to reduce the leading cause of injury deaths to children


European Child Safety Alliance calls for child road accident prevention on this World Health Day

More children die of injury than any other childhood disease combined in Europe, twice that of cancer and 8 times more than any respiratory disease. Of these injuries, road accidents to car passengers, pedestrians and cyclists, are the leading cause of these injury deaths for children.

In the EU 34% of child injury deaths are due to a road accident and the distribution of these injuries varies greatly by country. Road accidents in Portugal, Lithuania, Estonia and Latvia are almost 6 times greater than the death rates in Malta, Sweden and the United Kingdom. As road accidents are the largest cause of child injury deaths for most Member States, it is clear that those who can successfully manage the road area will achieve great gains to reduce their overall child injury and death rates. A graph depicting the road accident deaths for children in the EU (0-14 years) is available in PDF format.

A great deal of intervention and prevention work has been done in the area of road accidents and in a variety of countries around the world. It is always difficult to simply apply an injury prevention strategy from one geographic location to another without culturally adapting it while still assuring its effectiveness. Yet there is evidence that more lives could be saved on roads throughout Europe if the following strategies were implemented, enforced and taught to the public:

  • Reduced speed limits - in the UK, introduction of 20 mph/hr speed limit zones resulted in local reductions of 48% in child road accidents involving cyclists and a reduction of 70% in fatal child road accidents involving pedestrians.
  • Traffic calming - has shown accident savings of 60% in 30 km/hr zones.
  • Safer car fronts for pedestrian and cyclist -estimates up to 2,100 deaths and 18,000 serious pedestrian and cyclist casualties of all ages could be prevented annually.
  • Child passenger restraints - when used properly it has shown to have an injury reducing factor of 90 to 95% for rear facing systems and 60% with forward facing systems.
  • Stay rearward facing longer – children transported rearward in child passenger restraints up to the age of 3 have shown almost 5 times greater protection than forward facing.
  • Education campaigns – targeted communication messages for use of child passenger restraints and bicycle helmets have shown positive behaviour change.
  • Bicycle helmets - correctly fitted, bicycle helmets reduce the risk of head and brain injury by 63 to 88%.

These prevention measures are not only effective but can also be economical. Research in the USA has shown that for each dollar invested in road safety improvements there is a savings of $ 3, for each dollar invested in child safety seats a savings of $ 32 and for each dollar invested in bicycle helmets a savings of $ 29. Yet a recent Euro barometer survey of the European Commission shows that even though all Member States have legislated the use of seat belts, their use can be as low as 74% in some countries and even lower in rural areas. Bicycle helmet use in the EU is below 10%.

The European Child Safety Alliance urges for stronger commitments for proven road safety measures. Prevention does work. Governments, public health practitioners, industry, communities and families can reduce the unnecessary road toll by promoting and using safety measures that do work.

To celebrate this year's World Health Day members of the European Child Safety Alliance will be conducting a range of activities from conferences, expert meetings with governments, press conferences, road data reports and events for children in schools and communities. Please go to the complete list of activities (PDF 90kb) and data regarding child road accidents in the EU.

For further information you are invited to contact:
Ms. Joanne Vincenten, Director
European Child Safety Alliance
European Consumer Safety Association

Rijswijkstraat 2/ 1059 GK Amsterdam
PO Box 75169/ 1070 AD Amsterdam
Tel: + 31 (0)20 - 5114513
Fax: + 31(0)20 - 5114510

Share this page