“Thailand has the second-highest traffic fatality rate in the world, with 44 deaths per 100,000 population” (http://global.umich.edu/2014/02/thai-roads-ranked-no-2-for-traffic-deaths/).
It was this headline and observing how few children are secured in car seats in Bangkok that led to a campaign to raise awareness for car safety at Kensington International Kindergarten.
I am the Head Teacher of Kensington and everyday I see children arriving at school on the lap of a parent in the front of the car, or standing in the back leaning between the two front seats. The worst example I have seen is a child of three years old sitting on a parents lap ‘helping to drive’!
As a school we realised that we had a responsibility to keep the children safe and that this responsibility extended beyond the time they were with us at school. We began discussing safety with the parents as we noticed these incidents happening and we wrote about car safety in our weekly newsletter but we were making very little progress. The excuses made by parents for not using car seats usually involved ‘they won’t sit in the car seat’, ‘they cry if I ask them to sit in the car seat’, ‘we only drive a short distance’ and ‘they like sitting on my lap!’
As a team we talked about how we could raise awareness in a more proactive way and decided unanimously that if we were going to have any success we would have to start with the children!
The idea to make a car seat surround came from two teachers who suggested that if we made the car seats attractive and linked to a theme the children loved then maybe they would want to sit in their seats. So the planning began, we suspected however that this alone would not be enough and therefore started looking for a car seat manufacturer to support the event.
We were extremely lucky to find Britax Thailand. They were just as enthusiastic as us about raising car safety awareness and were happy to come to school with a selection of car seats and information for the children and the parents.
They came for 2 days and set up a very professional display that included car seats and a video presentation. They answered many questions from the teachers, parents and children and offered practical advice regarding the correct car seat for children of different ages, weight and height.
Following this the parents, the children and the car seats got creative together! We invited all of the parents to school to help make a car seat surround for their child’s car seat. We had castles, dinosaurs and even a lion! The activity was a great success with over 90% of parents attending during the three-day event.
Feedback from the parents showed us that whilst most of them do support car safety they have received inaccurate advice in the past that has led to two and three years olds using booster seats. We were also informed that whilst most parents try to keep their children safe, grandparents can often undermine this due to a lack of understanding and generational differences.
As a school we are committed to moving forward with this campaign and with Britax as our partner we are now planning many more events for our families. These will include providing car seat experts to check that the car seats are fitted correctly. We will also be providing workshops and presentations especially for grandparents and nannies.
We hope that many other schools in Bangkok and Thailand will follow our campaign. Whilst using car seats is not the law in Thailand we do call upon teachers, parents, grandparents and children to support car safety as a moral obligation in the absence of such a Law. With 44 deaths per 100,000 it is imperative that changes are made in order to keep children safe.
Editor’s Note: This article was originally published on Donna Townsend Early Years Consultancy and it is re-published her with permission of the author.