We often hear about traffic accidents on Malta’s roads but, thankfully, we rarely hear about children who are seriously injured.
But, even when there are accidents that involve minor injuries on children, no data is released to inform us on what went wrong.
“The child fatality rate is very low in Malta, so child safety in cars does not get much attention from parents, but we don’t know how many injuries go unreported in the news, let alone the impact of unsafe practices,” Rebecca Buttigieg, a mechanical engineer and accredited car seat adviser, says.
“Unfortunately, the Maltese authorities do not release any details when a child passenger is injured or killed in a car crash, regarding what car seat the child was in (or not in), and whether it was rear- or forward-facing, or correctly installed and used, so Maltese parents don’t have any local information to go to.”
She explains that according to a report commissioned by ANEC, a European consumer group, information from autopsy results of American three-year-old passengers who died forward-facing concluded that they would have survived if rear-facing. This is very powerful evidence for parents, she says.
“No one wants to shame parents whose child was injured or killed in a car crash, but perhaps if the Maltese authorities released anonymised data, that could help Maltese parents understand the risks to their children, and learn from the mistakes of others.”
Unfortunately, the Maltese authorities do not release any details when a child passenger is injured or killed in a car crash- Rebecca Buttigieg, accredited car seat adviser
Rear-facing car seats are safer
Buttigieg has long been advocating that parents should keep their children in rear-facing car seats. In Europe, parents can buy car seats that rear-face children up to six or seven years old.
So far, she adds, no forward-facing car seats have managed to provide enough protection to pass the strict Plus Test that is administered by the renowned Swedish National Road and Transport Research Institute (VTI).
“Although there is evidence for the safety of rear-facing a child in order to protect the neck and spinal cord, there does not seem to be any evidence to show that it is safe to forward-face a child from a particular age.
“Indeed, in military aircraft, the seats face backwards because rear-facing has been proven to be safer even for air travel. The idea has been tried in civilian cars, buses, trains and planes, and abandoned simply because most adults prefer to travel forward-facing even though it is less safe.”