Four out of the 14 children under 14 years who died in road traffic collisions between 2014 and 2016 were unrestrained passengers, according to figures contained in a new EU-wide study on road safety for children.
The report by the European Transport Safety Council, of which Ireland’s Road Safety Authority is a member, showed that Ireland had the fifth highest rate of child road fatalities where victims were not wearing seatbelts or similar restraints out of 13 EU states which provided comparative data.
A total of 104 children died on Irish roads between 2006 and 2016, ranging from 18 in 2008 to three in both 2012 and 2015.
The figures show 413 children were seriously injured in traffic collisions between 2006 and 2014.
About 8% of all deaths of children in Ireland are the result of fatal road accidents.
The ETSC report warns that absent, inappropriate or incorrectly fitted child seats remain a significant problem across the EU.
According to the World Health Organisation, a correctly fitted child restraint reduces the likelihood of a child being killed in a crash by 80%.
A recent survey of 5,000 vehicles by the RSA showed that 4,000 child car seats needed some type of adjustment. The RSA said most of the seats required a major adjustment to make them safe, while 3% of all seats were condemned as not fit for purpose.
The RSA said it was also working on more effective ways of capturing non-use of child restraints systems in Ireland.
The latest seatbelt wearing survey shows that 12% of 5 to 17-year-olds in Ireland were not wearing a seatbelt when either a front or rear seat passenger.
The ETSC has also called for reduced VAT on child seats as well as properly enforced 30 km/h speed zones in areas with large number of pedestrians and cyclists and near schools.
It noted that the wearing of bicycle helmets by children when cycling was mandatory in 14 EU members states but not Ireland.
The European Commission is due to announce what campaigners claim is a long overdue update of vehicle safety regulations in May – the first in almost a decade.
The ETSC has called on Brussels to make vehicle safety technologies such as Intelligent Speed Assistance, which restricts a vehicle’s speed to the legal limit of its location, and Automated Energy Braking, which can detect pedestrians and cyclists, to be fitted as standard in all new cars.
Antonio Avenoso, ETSC executive director, said such cost-effective and proven safety technologies could be as important for saving the lives of children as the seatbelt.
“The real change will only come when, just like with seatbelts, these technologies are fitted on every car as standard, not as an optional extra on a select few,” Mr Avenoso said.