We all want to protect our children as much as possible, in every situation. One thing that isn’t necessarily at the front of our minds when we think of child safety is a group outing or trip involving road travel.
Kids will inevitably go on trips or excursions with nursery or school groups, and any clubs or sports your child is involved in may also have an element of group travel. When parents are unable to attend such trips, our faith is put in the hands of the teachers, coaches and other appropriate adults or chaperones in this situation.
To this extent, we assume our children are safe as they are being looked after by responsible adults. However, it may come as a shock to learn that actually in some circumstances, there can be very little protection for our kids in coaches or minibuses. Even more shockingly, it is legal.
If your child is in a small minibus (unladen weight of 2,540kg or less) then the same child safety laws applicable in a car apply here. That is, children under 3 should use an appropriate child restraint, as should children under 12 or under 135cm. The only leeway here is that should such a restraint be unavailable for 3-12 year olds, the regular 3-point seat belt is a permissible form of restraint and should be used instead.
With larger minibuses (unladen weight of over 2,540kg), things are less strict. The current law states that children over 14 must use a seat belt when travelling in a larger minibus, however, children aged 3 to 13 are not permitted by law to wear a seat belt. Despite having no legal obligation to be strapped in, it’s very much advised that your child uses an appropriate restraint such as a standard seat belt where one is available. After all, research shows that you’re twice as likely to die in a car accident if you’re not wearing a seat belt.
Most coaches nowadays (those built after 2001) have individual 3-point seat belts or a retractable lap belt on all seats, whether forward or rear facing. However, similar to larger minibus travel, the law does not require those under 14 to wear the seat belt, whilst those over 14 must be strapped in using the standard belt. In this instance it’s strongly advised that your child uses the belt available.
Making trips safer
Most teachers and responsible adults on trips do still encourage children to wear seat belts on group trips, even if it isn’t the law in coaches or some minibuses. Whilst this does offer a degree of protection and shouldn’t be discouraged, seat belts are actually designed for adults, not children. This means that although your child will be restrained, it’s not the most effective form of protection for them.
Products like huggybelt which can be easily fitted to a minibus or coach seat belt can offer the most appropriate and effective protection your child needs. The huggybelt ensures the seat belt sits in the correct position on your child, so that there’s less chance of your child sustaining a seat belt syndrome injury. In fact, your child is 45% less likely to sustain injury in a crash situation if they are wearing a huggybelt than if they were to rely on the standard belt or safety seat.
The huggybelt is easily adjusted, so can be used to restrain a 4-year-old and a 10-year-old (though not both at the same time!), which is ideal in a school or club situation. The belts are durable and adjustable enough that they last as a child grows.
In a group situation, this is an ideal solution for drivers, and doesn’t take long to adjust to children of different heights and weights. From an individual parent perspective, you can easily pop a huggybelt into your child’s sports or school bag to be used on trips.