MOBILITY AND TRANSPORT
European Road Safety Charter
Good Practice

Road Safety Authority - Child Car Seat Education Initiatives

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Road Safety Authority - Child Car Seat Education Initiatives

Please describe the main road safety challenges/problems you have addressed or are addressing. 
The Road Safety Authority child car seat checking service - Check it Fits was launched on a national, full-time basis in 2013. Since then, the service has grown in popularity and trust among the public, and as a result, has checked over 50,000 child car seats and visited over 1,100 locations all over Ireland. In a study carried out by the RSA in 2016, of over 5,000 car seat checks, performed at the RSA Check it Fits service, it was found that as many as 4 out of 5 (80%) child car seats were incorrectly fitted. Seat adjustments, carried out by the checker at the Check it Fits service, are categorised by severity. In the same study in 2016, it was found that of the seats that were incorrectly fitted, just over 80% were classified as a 'Major' adjustment eg the fitting being excessively loose to make it almost ineffective in the event of a crash or harsh braking. The rest were classified as either a 'Minor' adjustment, 'Incompatible' (with child or car), 'Condemned' (not fit for purpose). Although some adjustments were classified as Minor (eg twisted seatbelt), even minor adjustments can make a big difference in how effectively the child is protected in the event of a crash. The challenge was that we urgently needed to reduce this worrying trend, to protect children on our roads and to ensure they were travelling safely. Because we have new parents joining our target audience every day, perhaps with little or no reliable information, we decided to focus our efforts on reducing the level of 'Major' adjustments we were finding. We knew that the overall statistic of misuse would naturally reduce as a result but we needed to focus on the adjustment classifications to start with. With this in mind, we had to develop a strategy that would inform and educate parents on child safety in cars from the very beginning of their journey through child car seat usage, from before their child is even born, until that child reaches 150cm and 36kg.

Project activities

If you work together with external partners, list the most important partners and briefly describe their role. 
We work with many external partners in the promotion of child safety in cars, the RSA Check it Fits service and the Code of Practice for child car seat retailers. Some examples are below: Supermarkets / Retail Parks / Child Car Seat Retailers host our Check it Fits service for free, all over Ireland. Child Car Seat Retailers are also signed up to the RSA Code of Practice, they help promote the Check it Fits service to their customers and followers, and they also host the service where possible. Policing Authority in Ireland (An Garda Síochána), also support the initiatives, particularly at local level, and promote and encourage people to engage with the Check it Fits service. Road Safety Officers in the Local Municipalities assist in the promotion of the service to their local contacts and encourage participation. Child Car Seat Manufacturers assist by providing training to our experts and supporting them with any technical queries they might have. Some manufacturers have also signed up to the Code of Practice, where they commit to provide training and support to retailers of their child car seat range. Public Health Staff and Maternity Hospitals assist in raising awareness of child car seat requirements among new parents and encourage parents to visit the Check it Fits service. Parenting Groups both in person and online assist in the promotion of child safety in cars, check it fits and the code of practice for child car seat retailers.
Please describe the project activities you carried/are carrying out and the time period over which these were implemented. 
The RSA's goal was to increase the awareness of child safety in cars and improve recognition of the Check it Fits Service among parents / guardians in Ireland. This in turn would reduce the level of child car seat misuse and more importantly reduce the levels of 'Major' adjustments required to seats when they are presented for checking. This was difficult to start with but once we built up trust among parents, awareness levels increased significantly and 'word-of-mouth' recommendations were established. We needed to assure parents that this was an independent, non-commercial service that was there to offer support and guidance to anyone, no matter where they got their car seat from or what way it was fitted when they came to us. By talking them through the check and the issues we came across, parents /guardians learned what to look out for and how to fit the seat safely. The face-to-face service is generally set up in supermarket carparks or large retail carparks. It is made up of a branded gazebo where parents / guardians are invited to drive their car into to have their child car seat checked. The experts are highly trained personnel with vast experience in child car seat checking, fitting and child car seat legislation. The service is open from 10am - 5:30pm at each event and there is no appointment /booking required. Parents are invited to arrive at any time during open and closing hours and are afforded as much time as is needed. Where required, we conduct follow up phone calls, video calls or emails to the parent. The Check it Fits service travels to all counties in the Republic of Ireland, hosting at least 150 events per year, during 50 weeks of the year but since 2020, as a result of Covid, we were left with no choice but to suspend the face-to-face service and introduce a new virtual checking service. This however proved to be extremely successful and provided much needed assistance to parents / guardians who were unable to avail of the face-to-face service during Covid lockdown. Such was the success that we now offer a hybrid service to parents/guardians since re-starting the face-to-face service in March 2022. Alongside our face-to-face service, we continue to offer our virtual service by breaking down the 150 events per year (138 face-to-face events and 12 virtual events (1 per month)). Since the introduction of the virtual checking service in Q4 2020, we have conducted over 1,500 virtual checks on child car seat, with over 1,000 people, up to May 2022. To raise awareness of child safety in cars and to support the Check it Fits service, we developed and implemented a robust promotion plan. This promotion plan is updated on an annual basis and includes the following activities: Child car seat safety materials: we developed and promoted a full suite of materials to educate about child car seat safety such as booklets, videos, social media content, articles, editorials, advertisements, photos, presentations, workshop materials etc. RSA website: dedicated area for child safety in cars information; Email subscriptions: we actively encourage public to sign up to receive e-mail notifications of upcoming service visits to their area and to receive information in relation to child safety in cars. Social Media: We developed a social media strategy, covering all platforms popular among parents; and we share information not only about the Check it Fits service but also general information about Child Safety in Cars and post at least once per week. Newsletter: we developed a quarterly child safety in cars newsletter which includes tips, messages, videos and notifications and share with email subscribers and online, to build up more subscribers. Television: We approached national TV stations and were successful in carrying out numerous live demonstrations and promotion of child car seat safety, during peak viewing times among parents (most recent 24 February 2022). Radio: We have been successful in obtaining regular air-time on national and local radio stations to help spread the message of child car seat safety and our nationwide checking service by issuing local press releases prior to visiting each county. Local promotion: We reach out to all local stakeholders in advance of our visit to each area eg schools, health workers, Road Safety Officers in the local municipalities, policing authorities, local child car seat retailers, parenting groups etc. Baby Fairs: We attend national Baby Fairs or participate in Baby Fairs hosted by large national supermarket brands or retailers. International Conferences: We believe in shared-learning so we learn from others and likewise share our experience with other countries who deal with the same problem with child car seat misuse. Mascot: We introduced a mascot for the Check it Fits Service, Charlie the teddy bear became a personality on social media, to help teach children about the importance of using their child car seat correctly in a fun, age appropriate and engaging way. Because we are targeting new people all the time and new parents are joining our audience every day, we needed to look at ways to make the right information available to them, from the very beginning. Therefore, the RSA committed to an action in the Government Road Safety Strategy 2013-2020 whereby the RSA would develop a Code of Practice for child car seat retailers. This was a challenge and involved huge efforts in getting manufacturers, retailers and parents aligned, to develop a dedicated code of practice. We are proud to say that we have been successful in the development and implementation of a voluntary Code of Practice for child car seat retailers. The aim of this Code was to standardise the level and quality of information / education on child car seats that was offered to parents / guardians when buying a child car seat. Following pilots and refinements and legal clarification during previous years, the Road Safety Authority Code of Practice for child car seat retailers was officially launched in February 2022, and we have over 45 retail stores and 5 manufacturers subscribed to the Code. Subject to correction but we believe this is the first of its kind in the EU. There is huge interest in this initiative, and we are continuing to invite more retailers and manufacturers to participate. We are hosting our first nationwide child car seat education workshop, which is specifically dedicated to child car seat retailers, in June 2022.
List the actions you carried/are carrying out 
Date 
Friday, 3 June, 2022

Evaluation

What has been the effect of the activities? 
Since the inception of the Check it Fits service in 2013, over 35,000 people have visited, and over 50,000 child car seats have been checked nationwide Our child car seat safety initiative has received huge interest at a local, national and international level for example we were invited to present at the Protection of Children in Cars International Conference in Munich. We have also reached thousands of people via our dedicated promotion of child safety in cars. 2019 was the last full year of checking before Covid arrived in 2020, and we were forced to suspend the face-to-face service. However, if we look at 2019 data, it is clear to see that we have made massive improvements in relation to both the overall level of incorrect fittings but also the severity of the adjustments required to the seats. There were over 9,000 car seats checked in 2019, and over half of those (56%) were incorrectly fitted and needed some type of adjustment to make them a safe fit. Although this is still too high, significant improvements have been made with a reduction from 80% incorrectly fitted in 2016 to 56% in 2019. As mentioned, adjustments are categorised by the checker by severity - Major, Minor, Incompatible and Condemned. Our target was to focus on the severity of the adjustments, and to reduce the level of 'Major' adjustments required. We successfully achieved this and are delighted to share that in 2019, instead of up on 80% of adjustments being classified as 'Major', this was reduced to just 30%. This reduction in 'Major' adjustments meant that the 'Minor' adjustments increased to 67%, but by eradicating the 'Major' faults, the injury risk to the child is significantly reduced. We are focusing now on reducing 'Minor' adjustments and further reducing 'Major' adjustments. We gather data of every child car seat checked via the Check it Fits service so this allows us to complete reports, track trends and set targets for improvements. We regularly track progress and this also helps us to identify common issues or problem we need to target in our education and promotion. The service visits up to 3 locations per county and visits some counties more than once in a 12 month period so this means it's very accessible and the accessibility is heightened even more by the availability of a virtual appointment in the event that we're not coming to a particular location in the near future. The combination of all RSA child safety in cars education initiatives compliments the RSA Education Strategy, and the 'cradle to grave' approach to road safety education in Ireland. This approach ensures that road safety education is an important consideration from a very young age, and in turn teaches children the basics of road safety from the start. The ethos of 'Lessons learned young last a lifetime' is at the core of many of our education initiatives and we believe that this approach will help us to shape positive attitudes and behaviours towards road safety. All of these efforts contribute significantly to safer road users, safer roads, and achieving Vision Zero by 2050.
Please briefly explain why your initiative is a good example of improving road safety. 
We are committed to adopting and implementing the Safe System Approach and dedicated to achieving Vision Zero by 2050. Of the 7 safe system priority intervention areas, this particular service lends itself to the 'Safe Road Use' area i.e. our child car seat education initiatives ensures children are travelling safely on our roads. Children are very precious cargo and although we are fortunate in Ireland to have relatively low numbers of child passenger fatalities on Irish roads, you will agree that even one child fatality is unacceptable. We believe these important education initiatives will help us achieve Vision Zero by 2050. We have demonstrated that with a combination of various education /awareness initiatives, methods and platforms, we have achieved a significant reduction in the level of child car seat misuse, plus an impressive reduction in the severity of child car seat misuse in Ireland. These initiatives are easily repeatable, at various levels, in other countries and by other organisations / groups. Governmental commitment and dedication from various agencies is required to give appropriate priority and authority to these important matters. Building public trust in the initiative and offering it to the public in a neutral, non-commercial, non-judgmental way is paramount to the success of initiatives relating to child car seat education.
How have you shared information about your project and its results? 
We have shared reports, data, information and education via various methods and platforms including: Onsite at the Check it Fits Service events; during virtual check it fits video call; on RSA website www.rsa.ie ; on RSAIreland social media platforms (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Linked In, YouTube) and also via other dedicated child car seat social media pages; periodic press releases to media; national television; national and local radio; dedicated child safety in cars newsletter; e-mail notifications to subscribers; ERSC website and workshops; various international child safety conferences.