Objective: To compare availability, urban price, and affordability of child/family safety devices between 18 economically diverse countries.
Design: Descriptive: urban price surveys by local safety organisations or shoppers.
Setting: Retail stores and internet vendors.
Main outcome measures: Prices expressed in US dollars, and affordability measured by hours of factory work needed to buy a child safety seat, a belt-positioning booster seat, a child bicycle helmet, and a smoke alarm.
Results: Prices of child and family safety devices varied widely between countries but the variation for child safety seats and bicycle helmets did not relate strongly to country income. Safety devices were expensive, often prohibitively so, in lower income countries. Far more hours of factory work were required to earn a child safety device in lower income than middle income, and middle income than higher income, countries. A bicycle helmet, for example, cost 10 hours of factory work in lower income countries but less than an hour in higher income countries. Smoke alarms and booster seats were not available in many lower income countries.
Conclusions: Bicycles and two-axle motor vehicles were numerous in lower and middle income countries, but corresponding child safety devices were often unaffordable and sometimes not readily available. The apparent market distortions and their causes merit investigation. Advocacy, social marketing, local device production, lowering of tariffs, and mandatory use legislation might stimulate market growth. Arguably, a moral obligation exists to offer subsidies that give all children a fair chance of surviving to adulthood.
- child safety seat
- bicycle helmet
- smoke alarm
- booster seat
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