Article Text

PDF

News and notes

Statistics from Altmetric.com

Injury Free Coalition for Kids

The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation is the largest health care philanthropist in the US, and has long supported efforts in substance abuse and tobacco prevention. Less well known is the support the foundation offers to injury prevention. A special report issued last September draws attention to their “Injury Free Coalition for Kids”, which operates injury prevention programs in hospitals in nine cities. The report describes each of the initiatives and then offers ideas for what it takes to replicate these efforts. The document is available on the foundation's web site www.rjwf.org.

Drawstring near-miss renews calls for ban in Canada

A mother in New Brunswick, Canada, thought she was witnessing her child's death when a drawstring at the bottom of the 7 year old girl's jacket got caught in a school bus railing. Unaware, the driver drove off, dragging the girl outside the bus for two stops before her frantic mother, following behind in her car, caught up with them. Amazingly, the girl suffered only minor injuries. The November incident spurred Health Canada, the federal ministry, to reissue an advisory to parents to remove drawstrings and to look for clothing which uses elastic or Velcro-type fastenings instead. But advocates (our editor foremost among them) renewed their calls for an ban on drawstrings in children's outerwear, instead of the voluntary industry guidelines now in place. The government pledged to monitor the marketplace closely and re-examine the possibility of a ban in the near future.

. . . while in the US

A Florida company has recalled about 6600 girls' sweatshirts because they have hood drawstrings. Children can get entangled and strangle in the drawstrings that catch on objects, including playground equipment, fences and tree branches, notes the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) in its press release announcing the recall. Since 1985, the CPSC knows of 16 deaths from neck/hood drawstrings. To help prevent children from strangling by their clothing drawstrings, in 1996 the CPSC issued guidelines for drawstrings on children's outerwear, which were subsequently incorporated into a voluntary standard.

Gardaí place crashed cars on roadside as warning

The wreckage of a dozen crashed cars greeted drivers along a quarter mile stretch of the main Dublin-Belfast road north of Dundalk in February. The display on the hard shoulder of the road was mounted by the Gardaí in a renewed attempt to curb the spiralling number of fatal and other serious road accidents, especially in the Louth-Meath area. Last year 415 people were killed on Irish roads, 57 in the Louth-Meath area. Seven of those lives were lost within a half mile radius of the scene of the display. All of the wrecks had been involved in serious accidents but no vehicles involved in fatal accidents were used. During the five hour operation members of the traffic corps slowed down traffic in the vicinity of the display, and handed out road safety leaflets. The Gardaí also noted drivers' comments and views on road safety issues on specially prepared questionnaires. The display was criticised by a Dundalk councillor as “a show of Garda power unlikely to have any long lasting effect on road safety”.

CIRnet builds momentum

The Canadian Injury Research Network (CIRnet) continues on its fast track to create a research agenda for injury prevention and control, following the Canadian Conference on Injury Prevention and Control in Kananaskis, Alberta. Ambitious in vision, CIRnet's aim is that research will improve injury prevention efforts, lead to a reduction in injuries, and improve the quality of life of Canadians living with the consequences of injury. A copy of the report from the open forum held at the Kananaskis conference can be obtained through the CIRnet Administrative Coordinator (tel: +1 204 787 1908). To become a member of CIRnet, visit www.smartrisk.ca/cirnet.temp.html.

Rating of US child occupant protection laws

Between July and December 2000, the US National SAFE KIDS Campaign conducted an extensive analysis of child occupant protection laws in all 50 states and the District of Columbia SAFE KIDS based its rating system on a 100 point scale. SAFE KIDS weighted each component of the model law by assigning point values. Each state law was then assigned points based on its ability to meet the model law standards. The findings were depressing. The authors report that nearly half of the states fail to protect children properly because of inadequate child occupant protection laws. No state fully and adequately protects all child passengers ages 15 and under. Most states (34) allow child passengers to ride unrestrained in certain circumstances by exempting drivers and/or other responsible parties from compliance with their child passenger safety law. But there was some good news. All 50 states and the District of Columbia have passed laws that require at least some children to ride restrained; 31 states require children through age 15 to ride restrained in some manners. Almost all state laws (47) require that child safety seats be used properly. One state (California) has proven that strong child occupant protection laws can be passed. California earned an “A” for its coverage of children ages 5 and under in an age and size appropriate child restraint in addition to meeting almost all other criteria. The report is available at the SAFE KIDS web site (www.safekids.org) and can be downloaded in PDF format. (Ross TC, Mickalide AD, Korn AR, et al. Child passengers at risk in America: a national rating of child occupant protection laws. Washington, DC: National SAFE KIDS Campaign, February 2001.)

Malaysian expert group

The Malaysian Ministry of Health appointed Dr R Krishnan, Dr Zulkifli Ismail, Dr Osman Ali, Dr Siti Norazah, Dr Loh Wah Yun, Dr K G Rampal, and Dr Amar Singh as consultants for their injury prevention programme from October to December 2000. The main objectives of the consultancy were to recommend a surveillance system and measures to prevent childhood injuries. It is hoped that the consultancy report will have a far reaching impact in Malaysia just as Injury in America had in the USA.

Agreement on general product safety directive

The ANEC Newsletter reports that on 30 November 2000, the Internal Market/Consumer/Tourism Council of the European Union (EU) reached political agreement on the commission's draft directive to improve the rules governing product safety in Europe, revising the directive on general product safety (92/59/EEC). The draft directive will introduce new and more straightforward rules designed to ensure that only safe products are put on the market. Key features of the revision are increased transparency, more active market surveillance and simpler rules for rapid intervention to remove dangerous products from the market. The directive also strengthens the operation of the EU's Rapid Alert System. The draft directive clarifies which products are covered. The consumer health and safety protection rules of the directive will in future apply to all consumer products. Products “migrating” from the professional sector to the consumer market, as has been the case for example with laser pens, will equally be concerned. And products used or made available to consumers by service providers such as beauty centres, hotels, or gas and electricity suppliers are also explicitly included in the scope of the directive. It is intended as a complement to sectoral community legislation by providing safety requirements for products, which are not subject to specific sectoral legislation (such as childcare products and lighters). More active and effective market surveillance will be achieved by strengthening the obligations and powers of national surveillance authorities, and by stronger sanctions at national level. Consumer organisations have repeatedly drawn attention to unsafe products on the market, in spite of the existing safety rules. Emergency procedures to ban the marketing of certain products or to withdraw products from shops or to recall products consumers have already bought are simplified and made more efficient. Producers and distributors need to inform authorities of unsafe products. (The ANEC Newsletter is available at www.anec.org.)

American Dental Association urges parents to provide mouthguards for children playing sports and riding scooters

In its most recent report, the US CPSC stated in 1991 that more than 100 000 cases of facial trauma occurred in children younger than 14 while they participated in sports activities. Now that motorized scooters are so popular with children, experts expect that number to rise. According to the American Dental Association (ADA), mouthguards help cushion blows that might otherwise cause broken teeth and injuries to the lips, tongue, face, or jaw. Mouthguards may also reduce the severity and incidence of concussions. Before facemasks or mouthguards were worn, half of all injuries during football occurred in or around a player's mouth, according to the ADA. Since high schools and colleges began to require use of facemasks and mouthguards for football, about 200 000 injuries to the face and mouth have been prevented each year. According to the ADA, the most effective mouthguard should be resilient, tear resistant, and comfortable. It should also fit properly and not restrict one's speech or breathing. For more information about the ADA position on this, visit the ADA web site at www.ada.org.

Health Canada warns of lead hazard in jewellery and candles

Inexpensive jewellery, often marketed for children, may contain extremely high proportions of lead, a marketplace survey by Health Canada discovered. Laboratory results showed that most of the jewellery, both imported and Canadian made, had lead levels of 50% to 100%, and the department was aware of raised blood lead in at least one child who had been sucking and chewing on similar jewellery. Pictures of some of the jewellery tested are available on the government web site: www.hc-sc.gc.ca in the product safety section. Families with small children and who suspect they may have such jewellery were advised to throw it away. Tests of candles with metallic core wicks showed that they give off lead which can be inhaled during burning. People are advised to discard candles suspected of containing lead, and manufacturers and importers are urged to use non-lead wicks. Health Canada says you can test candles by this method—separate the wick fibres and, if you see metal, rub the core of the wick on a piece of white paper. If the mark left on the paper is grey, then the metallic core is probably lead.

New resources on agricultural injuries

Two new resources are available on agricultural injuries from the National Children's Center for Rural and Agricultural Health and Safety in Wisconsin. Their winter newsletter has a cover article “Farm injuries are not `accidents'; frustration builds among farm safety specialists” which discusses why farm injuries are predictable and preventable and how the term “accident” hampers prevention efforts. The “Childhood Agricultural Injuries” fact sheet has been updated. This resource includes information about the population at risk, toll of childhood agricultural injuries, characteristics of injured children, and source of agricultural injury. Both publications are available online at: http://research.marshfieldclinic.org/children/ or contact NCCRAHS at +1 888 924 7233 or nccrahs{at}mfldclin.edu.

New measures to cut road deaths

In view of the 42 000 people killed and more than 1.7 million injured on EU roads every year, the European Parliament's Committee on Regional Policy has asked the commission to come up with measures to reduce drastically the number of fatal accidents, reports the ANEC Newsletter. The European Parliament's Committee on Regional Policy, Transport and Tourism adopted a report in December 2000 on the European Commission's communication Priorities in road safety—progress report. The committee felt that an EU recommendation on blood alcohol limits was not the best way of reducing the wide differences between member states in this area, so the commission was urged to resubmit its existing proposal for a maximum common limit of 0.5 parts per thousand. The report adds that member states should enforce compliance with blood alcohol limits more strictly. The committee also recommends: a legislative proposal requiring the fitting of speed limiters to vehicles weighing more than 3.5 tonnes; further support for the European New Car Assessment Programme (EuroNCAP); EU best practice guidelines on low cost measures, safer roadside designs, and policies for eliminating accident black spots; the next road safety programme for the years 2002–10 should clearly define the main priorities and employ a systematic approach to the problem of road safety. The report goes on to say that this road safety programme should address the main road safety issues common to all member states, such as excessive speed, consumption of alcohol and other substances which can impair driving ability, the high accident risk of young novice drivers, and the failure to use seat belts and crash helmets. Special attention should be given to vulnerable road users like pedestrians and cyclists.

The Health of Canada's children

The Canadian Institute of Child Health has published the third edition of The Health of Canada's Children, which provides a comprehensive picture of child health and wellbeing.

Award winning idea on checking depth of impact absorbing surfaces

How do you easily tell when playground surfacing material needs topping up? The government agency responsible for public playgrounds in the Australian Capital Territory came up with an idea that received an honorable mention in the Kidsafe Awards 2000 for its simplicity and ease of use. When they install the playground, before the under surface material is put in, they paint a “plimsoll line” in a different colour at the height the impact absorbing surface needs to be. This provides an automatic height line for eye or for a string line for maintenance checks on the surface. The Injury Prevention Unit in the Health Department of South Australia uses place impact absorbing mats in high displacement areas such as under swings. When the mats are exposed its time to top up the surfacing material.

Canada's Safe Kids Week aims to turn down the hot water

Following the model of successful campaigns in Australia, Norway, the US, and the province of British Columbia, Safe Kids Canada made tap water scalds the focus of its annual media and community partnership week, 28 May–3 June. The goal is to raise awareness of the hazards of too-hot tap water, to help families test their water temperature and turn down their water heaters if necessary. Prevention of more common scalds from hot drinks and cooking pots will also be promoted, along with the need to keep smoke alarms in working order. The first child admitted to the Hospital for Sick Children in Toronto 126 years ago was a scald patient, so it is fitting that the hospital's national injury prevention program should champion this issue. Two recent bathtub scald deaths (both disabled adults) in Canada, as well as a coroner's verdict on a similar death two years ago, were disquieting reminders that the elderly and disabled are as vulnerable to these injuries as are young children. Safe Kids Week is sponsored by Johnson & Johnson and includes safety promotion materials in associated retail stores. The next step is to work towards changes in standards for the manufacture and/or installation of hot water heaters or in plumbing codes to ensure that the problem is eventually eliminated at the source.

Significant change in New Zealand accident insurance

There have been some significant changes in the New Zealand system of accident insurance. The accident compensation scheme provides 24 hour, no-fault, comprehensive, and compulsory accident insurance for all, including visitors from overseas, who suffer accidental personal injury at any time in New Zealand and in some limited circumstances overseas. Occupational disease and medical misadventure is included and fault is not a consideration except suicide, intentional self injury, or injury occurring during criminal conduct. Following legislative changes in 2000, ACC is once again the sole provider of accident insurance for all work and non-work injuries, for all New Zealanders. Under previous legislation, employers were required to take out accident insurance cover with private insurers and parts of ACC functions were devolved into subsidiary organisations. A business unit within ACC, called ACC Injury Prevention focuses on providing injury prevention and safety promotion services in New Zealand. All New Zealanders pay premiums for ACC cover. These are paid by employers and self employed people to cover work related injuries, and earners to cover non-work injuries. Motor vehicle accident cover is funded by a component of motor vehicle registration fees and a percentage of petrol sales. The government funds the costs of injuries to people who are not in the paid workforce. ACC is a Crown owned entity owned by the New Zealand Government; performance is governed by a board appointed by the Minister for Accident Insurance. There are about 1.5 million injury claims a year and ACC publishes information on the incidence, nature, and cost of managing work and non-work related injury claims. Reports can be found at their web site www.acc.org.nz or from PO Box 242, Wellington, New Zealand, tel: +64 4 918 7700, fax: +64 4 918 7636.

Partnerships for prevention

Survivor advocates and injury prevention professionals can form productive partnerships. The latest issue of the Trauma Foundation's newsletter describes seven examples of effective partnering that have resulted in the passage of laws, public awareness, changes in product design, and other tangible differences. Coauthored by editorial board member Elizabeth McLoughlin, the issue is titled “Channeling grief into policy change: survivor advocacy for injury prevention”. Contact the Trauma Foundation, San Francisco General Hospital, San Francisco CA 94110, USA. The newsletter and supplemental information on handling grief and developing advocacy skills are online at www.tf.org/tf/advocates/advocate1.shtml.

New Zealand injury data

The Injury Prevention Research Unit at the University of Otago has produced more of its fact sheets on injury. Fact sheets No 17 Trends in Fatal Injury and No 18 Trends in Non-fatal Injury provide detailed graphs and tables including age adjusted rates, in eight categories, for each of the 21 years from 1978 to 1998. Sheet No 19 Suicide gives details including numbers and rates by age group and year from 1974 to 1997. Contact: PO Box 913 Dunedin New Zealand, tel: +64 3 479 8342, fax: +64 3 479 8337, www.otago.ac.nz/ipru/.

Cold winter + rising fuel costs = fire and burn hazards

Soaring prices (by Canadian standards) for natural gas, oil, and electricity this winter led some Canadians to turn to alternative sources to heat their homes. (Compared with European prices, Canadian energy costs are still low, but these things are all relative.) This in turn led to a lot of fire and burn hazards, as many had feared. In Alberta, for example (ironically the home of much of the nation's oil and gas supplies) a woman brought her propane barbecue indoors and landed in hospital with carbon monoxide poisoning. Another resident tried to heat his home by fuelling a generator with cooking oil (another Canadian product); he also tried putting this fuel in his diesel truck. In Ontario, grandparents cranked up their natural gas fuelled fireplace to save on heating costs but ended up rushing a grandchild to the hospital with hand burns from touching the superheated glass doors of the fireplace. Gas fireplaces are popular fixtures in newer homes in Canada, and they operate with the flip of a switch, but a recent study in Toronto found that the glass doors reach 200°C in a matter of minutes and take 30 minutes or more to cool down to a safe temperature, after the unit has been switched off. More prominent warning labels are needed and, more importantly, a redesign of the fireplaces to either keep the doors at a safe temperature or to keep children at a safe distance.

Ford booster seat initiative

In January, the Ford Motor Company joined with the United Way to donate 500 000 child booster seats to needy families. Ford dealerships will also distribute another half million booster seats to customers who wish to purchase them. Statewide workshops and fitting clinics are planned to educate families about the need and importance of properly fitted safety seats. Ford is working with a partnership of government, non-profit, and professional agencies and organizations to promote booster seat usage. See www.boostamerica.org/news16.htm for further information.

Cost of gun violence

A new book puts the cost of gun violence in the US at a staggering $100 billion annually. Authors Phil Cook and Jens Ludwig, professors of public policy at Johns Hopkins and Duke University respectively, write in Gun Violence: The Real Costs (Oxford University Press): “Gun violence can be reduced, and many of the interventions designed to separate guns from violence essentially pay for themselves”.

Falls among older people

A recent study by the Yale School of Medicine found that slipping showers, loose throw rugs, and other household hazards were not responsible for most falls by the elderly living at home. Surprisingly, no relationship was found between potential hazards and the occurrence of falls. Rather, the authors suggest that devoting resources to improving gait and balance, correct footwear, monitoring medications, and increasing muscle strength are more productive prevention measures. The study was published in the December 2000 issue of Medical Care.

Decline in aboriginal life expectancy

Associated with the risk of injury death there is evidence that the life expectancy among Australian indigenous communities is falling. Unpublished data from the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) indicates small falls in life expectancy in contrast to increases in life expectancy for other Australians. Because of data reliability issues, the calculations are based on data from three states, and show that the black-white divide in life expectancy is worse than that for native Americans and for Maori. Aboriginal males can now expect to live to 55.6 years, about 20.6 less that men generally; for Aboriginal females the figures are 63 years and a gap of 18.8 years. The ABS has previously indicated that the indigenous death rates are probably understated because the information is patchy.

Unattended children in cars

Kids 'N Cars is a non-profit organization dedicated to promoting awareness of the risks involved in leaving children unattended in or around vehicles. With a grant from the California Kids 'Plates program (funds from the sales of a special license plate are dedicated to children's health and safety initiatives), Kids 'N Cars has formed a statewide, multidisciplinary expert panel to make recommendations to tackle this problem. The recommendations have also led to proposed legislation, making it a punishable offence to leave children unattended in motor vehicles in California. A handful of other states in the US have similar laws, with varying penalties. For the panel's recommendations or other information on Kids 'N Cars, see their web site www.kidsncars.org.

Changes to ICRIN web site

Hank Weiss, keeper of the excellent ICRIN web site has made a range of improvements. There is new information on the ICRIN education and training page with links to the archived multimedia seminars from the University of Pittsburgh (www.circl.pitt.edu/home/seminar%20archive.htm). This is believed to be the single largest collection of web accessible multimedia seminars. It represents over 14 hours of material, and will appeal to a broad audience of researchers and practitioners. Also added is a link to the Global Health network series of public health internet lectures, VINCENT (Violence and INjury Control Education through Networking and Training) from the University of North Carolina Injury Prevention Research Center at www.injurycontrol.com/icrin/educat.htm. Weiss has recently compiled a page “Online Journal Resources Related to Injury Prevention” but that is on the National Association of Injury Control Research Centers (NAICRC) web site: www.naicrc.org/Journals%20frameset.htm. NAICRC is an organization devoted to promoting scholarly activity in injury control, addressing issues relevant to the prevention, acute care, and rehabilitation of traumatic injury through multiple activities in research; research dissemination; program development and evaluation; consultation; and education and training. The NAICRC web site, which is undergoing active development, has or will have lists of course curricula, databases of speakers and projects being conducted at each member center, links to electronic journals, member links, and other resources.

Action on injury in Vietnam

The rates of child injury death in the developed world can be easily put in context by comparing the UNICEF League of Child Death figures to those in developing countries. The UNICEF report, covered fully elsewhere in this issue of Injury Prevention, shows that 20 000 children a year are likely to die from injury in the 26 OECD countries, while contemporary estimates from UNICEF Vietnam put the child injury death figures at 50 000 deaths a year. The good news is that the hard task of prevention is being undertaken. Vietnam is developing a National Injury Prevention Strategy, and within this UNICEF Vietnam is supporting the development of a Child Injury Prevention Strategy in association with the Vietnam Committee for Child Protection. The strategies are expected to be further developed at a national injury conference in the second half of 2001. Reports on the results of the mandatory requirements for the use of helmets on motorcycles and of trial promotion programs should be available at that time.

US seat belt study—use is up but variation by region

While seat belt use in the US was up slightly to 71% in 2000, a new study shows wide variations in use depending on vehicle type and the strength of state seat belt laws. There also were significant regional differences, with Western motorists registering the highest rate of seat belt use in the nation, according to the study by the US Department of Transportation's National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). A related NHTSA study found that three point seat belts reduced fatalities by 45% in passenger car crashes and 60% in light truck crashes. Fatality reduction is as high as 80% in some types of crashes, such as rollovers involving vans, sport utility vehicles, and pickup trucks. Full information on both studies is available on the NHTSA web site at www.nhtsa.dot.gov.

One study found that seat belt use increased from 67% in 1999 to a record high of 71% in 2000. But NHTSA's National Occupational Protection Use Survey found wide variations. The report notes that belt use in states with tougher standard (primary enforcement) laws averaged 77% while states with weaker secondary laws averaged 64%. An average of 74% of car occupants used seat belts while pickup drivers and passengers averaged 59%. Together, occupants of vans and sport utility vehicles averaged 74% belt use. Overall, drivers were more likely to buckle up (72%) than passengers (68%).

In addition to overall fatality reductions attributed to seat belts, a separate NHTSA occupant protection study found that three point seat belts reduced fatalities by 60% in cars and 64% in light trucks when the vehicle struck a fixed object. In rollover crashes, seat belts are especially effective because 69% of all car fatalities and 78% of light truck deaths in these crashes involved ejection of the unbelted occupant from the vehicle.

Pedestrian protection moving slowly

In February, ANEC and BEUC participated in a public hearing organised by the European Commission on pedestrian protection. For many years now, consumers have been lobbying for a directive containing the four pedestrian protection tests that are already used by the EuroNCAP car crash tests, but things have been moving at walking pace. In 1992, the European Commission proposed a draft proposal to improve pedestrian protection and since 1996, a legislative proposal on pedestrian protection has been included in the commission work programmes. The European Parliament and the Council have also repeatedly called for legislation. Now the European car industry offered to negotiate with the European Commission a voluntary agreement on pedestrian protection. The presentation by BEUC/ANEC at the public hearing stressed the need for transparency, participation, and consensus of all stakeholders in the process. Several members of the European Parliament and member states questioned the legality of a negotiated agreement on pedestrian protection, as it would bypass the European Parliament. The European Commission will decide mid-2001 on a voluntary agreement or on a directive on pedestrian protection. It is estimated that vehicle modifications could save 2000 pedestrian lives a year in the EU.

American Public Health Association newsletters online

The Injury Control and Emergency Health Services section newsletters of the American Public Health Association are online at www.apha.org/sections/newsletters/injurycontrol.htm. To visit the ICEHS section web site, go to www.icehs.org.

Scalds prevention project funded

A tap water scald prevention committee operating from the Children's Hospital in Winnipeg, Canada has received grant of $15 000 to support its work, reports Manitoba Child Injury Prevention News, the newsletter of IMPACT. The grant will enable the group to buy liquid crystal temperature cards and print educational pamphlets. The plan is for public health nurses and environmental health inspectors to visit homes, measure the water temperature and turn down the heater. The cards will then be left with the resident so that the temperature can be checked again in a few days.

American Medical Association scooter injuries' resolution

At the interim 2000 meeting of the American Medical Association House of Delegates, the house adopted as amended a resolution on preventing scooter injuries, which was co-sponsored by seven national medical specialty societies. The original resolution is available at www.ama-assn.org/meetings/public/interim00/reports/rcd/411.rtf.

School bus safety in Portugal

Since 1998, APSI (Portuguese Association for Child and Adolescent Safety Promotion) has been lobbying for better safety conditions for school buses and children's transportation undertaken by institutions (outside parents direct responsibility). After a press release and articles published by APSI on accidents and the lack of legislation, there was such great pressure from the press, parents, schools, and consumers in general that the government created a working group at the end of 1999 to study the problem and suggest a legislation project. This group—involving municipalities, educational professionals, the General Directorate of Transports and General Directorate of Health, as well as APSI—presented a proposal to the government in June 2000. It stated that all buses intended to carry children should have seat belts and children must wear them, the vehicles should comply with stricter safety rules, the rule of having three children in the place of two should be abolished, bus stops should not be located near heavy traffic roads where children have to stand unattended while waiting, and every driver must have at least an assistant to look after the children. However, there is still no regulation.

There are no official data available on injuries related to school buses but, after a survey undertaken by APSI based on press cuttings from October 1998 to June 2000, we tracked down 20 accidents with school buses involving children from 15 months to 17 years old, as passengers and pedestrians, with 10 fatalities and an average of 10 injured children per accident. A number of the crashes were due to “problems with brakes” and the buses and minibuses carry too many children compared with the number of seats available. In one of the cases where there were two students killed, many of the children were travelling standing. There are also two deaths of teenagers falling down of the bus while moving—one because the door was opened “due to the heat”, another who was standing against the window and the rubber seals supporting the window broke, and also children run over by the school bus or other vehicles while waiting for the school bus or just after leaving it.

Since September 2000, APSI has organised three training courses for school bus drivers so that they can be community partners, with school and the municipality, in improving children's safety as passengers as well as pedestrians. The programme includes child development and behaviour, passenger safety, correct choice and use of child safety seats and seat belts, pedestrian safety when entering and leaving the bus, choosing the most appropriate sites for loading and unloading, defensive and reactive driving, and emergency procedures. (To be a school bus driver in Portugal you just need a driving license for the type of vehicle you are supposed to drive.) The four day training courses proved to be very successful and we already have a training plan for 2001. The courses have had very good coverage in the press and on television and they have been very useful in raising awareness of the problem with more parents lobbying their children's schools to improve the safety of school buses. Schools themselves are also starting to demand clearer rules from the government.

Children as pedestrians

APSI has been campaigning for lower speeds (maximum 30 km/h) in residential areas, near schools, and near school bus stops. The maximum legal speed is 50 km/h but it is not obeyed. Some training has been carried out by the Road Traffic Institute for road engineers so that they would be able to undertake better road planning but it was not enough. We believe that only traffic calming measures will allow a real improvement in saved lives—education and warnings alone are inefficient and can even be “dangerous” by misleading the child (for example, making the child believe that drivers will always respect them as long as they “behave”). APSI produced a radio tape that was broadcast on more than 30 radio stations, both national and local, gave lectures at conferences for road engineers and politicians, and also gave media interviews.

Acknowledgments

Contributors to these news and notes include Anara Guard, Helena Menezes, Rosie Mercer, Barry Pless, Ian Scott, David Sleet, Charlotte Stark, Kathy Weber, Jan Shield, and Amy Zierler. Michael Hayes has edited the contributions. Items for the December 2001 issue should be sent to Michael Hayes at the Child Accident Prevention Trust, 18–20 Farringdon Lane, London EC1R 3HA, UK (fax +44 (0)20 7608 3674, email mh{at}capt.org.uk) by 1 September 2001.

View Abstract

Request permissions

If you wish to reuse any or all of this article please use the link below which will take you to the Copyright Clearance Center’s RightsLink service. You will be able to get a quick price and instant permission to reuse the content in many different ways.