The mortality of children in car accidents who do not travel in a protective seat or are not properly tied to the device, has decreased dramatically in recent years in Puerto Rico, according to the Commission for Traffic Safety (CST ).
But, the executive director of the public corporation, Darelis López Rosario, said that they continue to emphasize in their educational campaigns to raise awareness among citizens so that there is no fatality.
“So far in 2020, we have not suffered any fatal accidents with children. That is the greatest achievement that I can review and that is what we want. A single death is too much. Our line is zero deaths, ”the official stressed in an interview with Primera Hora within the framework of the Child Passenger Week and the Day of Awareness of the Use of Protective Seats, which is commemorated tomorrow, Saturday, September 26.
López Rosario announced the reduction of child deaths on the roads together with Jorge Veci, chief of operations of Metropistas, an entity that joins the CST awareness campaign.
The attorney reported that the latest observational study the CST completed this September revealed that child restraint use has increased to 95% compared to the past three years. She specified that between 2016-2017, the figure was 82%.
He explained that in 2017, there were three deaths of children related to the protective seat; one in 2018, two in 2019, and so far in 2020, none have been reported. He clarified that the 2019 figure may still have adjustments and that the final 2020 number, which can also reflect the impact of the pandemic and social distancing, will be in 2021.
López Rosario recalled that Traffic Law 22 requires that minors between the ages of 0 to 8 years travel in a protective seat appropriate to their age, weight and height, and that drivers who do not comply with these provisions are subject to fines that They start at $ 500.
“I am hopeful that this will allow us to continue reducing deaths and injuries to our children. In addition to the educational campaigns that the Commission works, we have collaborations like this one with Metropistas, which allow us to reach more people with the educational effort, ”he said.
López Rosario also said that the CST is working on other efforts, such as the creation of a certification on the proper installation of the protective seat. “This allowed us to increase the search for these services by parents, adults and caregivers of minors to ensure that the installation of the protective seat was adequate, because there is no use having the protective seat if it is not properly installed,” he stressed.
He argued that the CST has increased by 150 the number of certified technicians around the island, mostly firefighters, since they are required to be trained.
He also indicated that between 2017 and this year, the agency has provided some 928 child protection seats to low-income people, some through municipalities.
He said that this year at the global level in the CST, the statistics of deaths on the roads also reflect a marked reduction.
“Today we have a reduction of 29 fatalities compared to last year and within the pandemic, the ‘lockdown’, the adjustment of the schedule and night activities, incorrect behaviors on the roads have been reduced. In previous years we had many more cases of drunk drivers and during the pandemic what we have seen is an increase in speeding, ”said López Rosario.
For his part, the director of operations of Metropistas alluded to a recent study by the London School of Economics and Political Sciences that revealed that the socioeconomic cost of injuries and deaths of children under 17 years of age in traffic accidents in Puerto Rico is estimated at about $ 519 million.
The study, commissioned by the Albertis Foundation, Metropistas’ main shareholder, evaluated data from Puerto Rico and seven other countries in the world on the effect of collisions with minors as victims.
“Puerto Rico is at a similar level to Chile in terms of road accidents with children and young people in our vehicles. It is better than Argentina, which could have similar numbers and much better than Brazil, which has quite dramatic rates “Veci said.
He argued, however, that when the numbers are compared “with the countries on the other side of the ocean, they are not as good as we have in the countries of Europe.”
Research carried out in France, Spain, Italy, Chile, Brazil, Argentina, India and Puerto Rico concluded that the annual socioeconomic cost of traffic accidents suffered by children in these eight countries amounts to $ 21.8 billion.
Veci also said that according to other investigations, the road infrastructure is responsible for 15% of traffic accidents, another 15% is due to the condition of the vehicle and the remaining 70% is due to the human factor.
“It is through this type of campaign, awareness raising, and I would say education, where we really have room for improvement. If we manage to reduce the margin of traffic accidents through this type of campaign and awareness, we will greatly reduce incidents “, Held.
“We have reached a very good number of 94 and 95 in child restraint accidents in Puerto Rico. It is a very good number considering that we come from a lower number, but we must not rest until 100% of the vehicles are adequately prepared to carry our minors, because they are also the drivers of the future and if we are able to instill in them a road safety culture from a very young age, tomorrow they will unconsciously fasten their seat belts ”, added the businessman.
He said that in 2018, they distributed protective seats in municipalities through which the PR-22 runs and that they will make “another delivery probably next year.”
“We cannot put the protective seat in every car in Puerto Rico. It is a responsibility of the parents … The most we can do is continue to raise awareness, but in the end it is a responsibility of each of the parents “, he stated.
“I think we can easily reach 100%, it is a number that is not too far and I am sure that in the coming months, and I hope it will not be one or two years, we can achieve it, because it is the only way in which our children go safely in the vehicles, “he added.
Is more education needed, more orientation to citizenship?, we asked.
“It is never enough, we have a long way to go. There is a four to five percent that we have not yet reached and you have to make them see that it is something for everyone and that it is a social drama, “he said.
He added that road safety “is a matter of education, it should not be something about forums or congresses, it should be something totally day-to-day in schools.”
The report also warns of the need to increase global investment in road infrastructure.
Veci claimed that from 2014 to the present, Metropistas has made an investment of $ 152 million in PR-22 and PR-5 and that they have managed to reduce accidents with victims by 70%.
According to data from the CST, Puerto Rico has some 2.23 million registered vehicles and 26,800 kilometers of highways.
The incidence of fatalities in the country from crashes in 2015 was 12.4 per 100,000 inhabitants, while so far in 2020, 166 people have lost their lives in a car accident, according to the figures provided.
The agency detailed that deaths related to speeding were the leading cause of death, followed by pedestrians, passengers not wearing seat belts, victims caused by alcohol use, deaths related to motorcycles and teenage drivers. .
The total estimated fatalities of children up to 17 years of age due to traffic accidents in Puerto Rico in 2016 was 22, which represents 7.82% of a total of 279 deaths.
For its part, the report “Impact of traffic accidents with child victims” highlighted that “more than 94% of the Puerto Rican population uses child restraint systems, with studies showing that, thanks to these, fatal child injuries can be reduced by 71 % in general and 54% in the case of babies ”.
According to CST data, deaths of children and youth up to 17 years of age accounted for 5% of pedestrian deaths and 8% of cyclists.