FATALITIES among children on Portugal’s roads are an alarming eight per month, according to the latest statistics released by the Direcção-Geral de Viação. It also revealed that, between 2003 and 2004, nearly 600 children were wounded monthly and eight per cent of these casualties were serious, resulting in permanent disabilities or disfigurement.
Despite the depressing news, the president of the Association for the Promotion of Child Safety, Helena Menezes, believes there are some grounds for optimism, since infant mortality on the country’s roads had fallen 33 per cent between 1998 and 2003. One of the reasons for the decline in deaths is that parents have become more aware of the need for children to use seat belts and other security items, such as car seats, in vehicles.
However, it is estimated that four out of 10 children still travel on Portugal’s motorways without being strapped in and 27 per cent are not adequately protected.
Last Saturday a new law came into force, whereby all vehicle passengers must use a seat belt. Police now have new powers to issue on-the-spot fines of between 120 and 600 euros for drivers of vehicles ferrying passengers not using seat belts.