Georgia: child car seats may soon be obligatory – not everyone is happy
Over the past year and a half, 18 children have been killed in automobile accidents on Georgian roads, and another 934 have been injured.
In 2016 and 2017, this figure was more tragic: 40 dead and more than 2,000 injured.
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In Georgia, one can often spot a 5-6-year-old child sitting without proper supervision in the back seat, with the window down and his head stuck out of the window. Or a woman in the front seat with a baby in her arms.
Despite the fact that in Georgia the rules of the road are consistently being made more strict, the legislation has not yet reached a settlement concerning the rules regarding children in transportation.
And the statistics are alarming. Experts say that children are not only vulnerable in serious car accidents, but even in incidents where adults are only lightly injured or not at all – but which can end fatally for children not properly protected in a car seat.
Studies to identify how many parents in Georgia use car seats in their cars have not yet been carried out. Although the situation as a whole is clear without special observation.
Most parents transport children without special child seats. Often they don’t even have information about how dangerous it is. However, starting next year, this situation may change. A bill has been submitted to the Georgian parliament according to which the transportation of children under 12 years old and shorter than 135 centimeters without special chairs and fasteners will be considered a violation of road safety rules.
Today’s regulations require transportation in special chairs with fasteners for children under 3 years old.
However, nobody has yet been fined by this regulation, because the same law stipulates that a three-year-old child can be in a car on the lap of a person who is at least 16 years old, who himself will sit in the back seat, fastened with a seat belt.
“The law that allows children to be kept on their knees in a car is unsuitable, because it exposes juveniles to increased danger,” says Eka Laliashvili, chairman of the Georgia Alliance for Safe Roads organization.
This organization is one of the initiators of the new bill.
Laliashvili says that according to the bill proposed to parliament, all children up to 135 centimeters tall in a car should be seated in a car seat, and this law should apply to everyone without exception.
Settling the rules for the safe transport of children is one of Georgia’s commitments made to the EU in the framework of the signed association agreement.
According to the agreement, Georgia’s legislation should gradually approximate the laws of European countries.
“European regulations do not give direct instructions on the obligatory use of car seats for transporting children, but the law contains a requirement to help reduce the number of accidents, prevent them and protect children on the roads. If we compare the situation on our roads with the picture in Europe, then the average number of victims on the roads in Georgia is twice that of Europe”, says Eka Laliashvili.
The exact fine for not using child car seats has not yet been established. The authors of the proposed regulation assume that the penalty will remain the same as it is now in the provision on the violation of the general rules concerning children’s safety during transportation – 40 lari and a 20 point deduction from one’s license.
What kinds of transport will the new regulation affect?
The new regulation applies only to private cars and does not affect public transport – buses, minibuses and regular taxis.
“And in Europe, similar regulations do not apply to public transport. Although on this topic there are active discussions. It is worth emphasizing that foreign public transport drivers have higher qualifications than ours, and they drive in a much more disciplined way,” says Mevlud Meladze, vice president of the Automobile and Auto Racing Federation, another co-author of the bill.
The bill does not contain regulations on safety measures in school buses. According to experts, this is a separate problem, which also requires a quick solution.
Some of the most important rules that should be followed when transporting children:
• In a car accident, the child is in less danger when sitting separately, and not on someone’s lap. In an accident, an adult, on whose lap a child may be located, may inadvertently inflict more serious injuries on him than if the child had been seated separately.
• A child with a height of about 135 centimeters cannot be fastened with a seat belt, because in this case the belt will not strap over the shoulder and chest, but over the throat, which in the event of an accident can lead to dangerous injuries to this part of the body.
• Do not place a child up to 135 centimeters in the front seat. Should it activate, an airbag can kill a 5-7-year old child on the spot.
• A child safety seat must be securely attached. With it, there must certainly be fixing devices that must hold the child tight so that one finger can be placed between the device and the child’s body.
• It is not permissible for a child in a car seat to wear a voluminous jacket. The jacket should be removed so as to fix the body child to the fastening device, and not their clothes.
Issues with carrying out the reform
Experts working on new street safety rules are concerned about the enforcement of the law.
Neglecting the enforcement of the law by the police: despite the fact that today there are rules for transporting children under three years of age, according to experts, the police actually do not pay attention to whether these rules are implemented or not, and does not subject anyone to fines for violating them. “Once the bill is approved, it is necessary to begin active work with police officers so that they begin to fine violators of the regulation. A few punishments will be enough for the public to understand: the rules must be observed,” said Mevlud Meladze to JAMnews.
Another problem is public awareness: “Unfortunately, Georgian society is not known for its information culture. Many do not realize how important it is to comply with safety rules and that their violation can lead to fatal outcomes. Until one or another problem touches them, people tend to not notice it,” Meladze says.
The purchase of child seats for a car will be another expense item: After the bill is passed, parents will be forced to bear certain expenses for the purchase of child seats. Otherwise, they will be fined. In a country where 61% of the population is considered unemployed (according to the NDI study), a child’s car seat may seem like an unnecessary luxury, for which many families may not have the money to buy.
The announced changes Have caused a mixed reaction in society. Many parents have opposed it, declaring the innovation “another financial trap,” “another unnecessary regulation.”
Some typical Facebook reactions include sentiments such as:
“How can you put a 12-year-old child in a special basket?”
“And if there are five children, what should one do?”
“When half the population lives below the poverty line and does not know how to feed a child, how can one be forced to buy special car seats?”
Most parents and drivers do not have the necessary information on the rules for the safe transport of children.
The initiators of the bill plan to organize a special information campaign to solve this issue.
Some parents who own cars agree that the implementation of the regulation involves additional costs, but this is necessary for the safety of children:
“I know that the seat should be in the car, it is necessary for the safety of my children. But, you know how it happens, the regulation will not be carried out until people are fined and the law is enforced. Special car seats are additional costs that people do not want to bear. In addition, I have two children, so there will be double expenses, and this is about 500 GEL (about $170). Therefore, I still do not have these chairs”, says Vano Pochiashvili, the father of two young children.
How much will the regulation cost parents?
You can buy special car seats in children’s stores and wholesale markets. And even in some pharmacies. The cost begins at 100 GEL, while booster seats are cheaper, starting at 40 GEL.
When purchasing special chairs, the age of the child should be taken into account – the chair should not be too bulky, but also not too small. It’s good if you buy a car seat that your child can try, to make sure it’s a good fit, and to make sure the side pillows and other protective components of the seat are of sufficient density.
And most importantly – the chair should be in compliance with all recommendations and rules.