New child security law now in force

BUS DRIVERS have complained that the government’s new child safety law is ridiculous and unworkable.

The law, which came into force on Friday last week, and pertains to groups of children being ferried in school minibuses, coaches and other collective motorised services, puts the responsibility of children’s safety squarely on the shoulders of drivers.

However, the same law does not insist, as initially planned, that an adult supervisor, such as a parent or teacher must accompany the children on each and every trip.

According to the Portuguese Drivers’ Union, the law now obliges the driver to take the child into the school or establishment. This means that he or she is also forced to leave the other children alone in the vehicle.

“Following this law means that children are being transported in conditions, which are simply not acceptable,” complained Vítor Pereira, head of the Portuguese Federation of Road Transport Unions.

The new law has also been called into question by transport company bosses, with the president of the National Association of Heavy Road Passenger Transport, Luís Cabaço Martins, saying that while the obligatory use of seat belts was easy to enforce, the law on so-called child retention systems, or safety seats, was unclear and unworkable.  

“Different coaches and buses have different designs of seating, with seat belts that go across the chest making it impossible to install the safety seats,” he said.

However, the president of the Association for the Promotion of Infant Safety took a different line. Helena Cardoso Menezes believes that the removable safety seats should be used for all children under the age of three. “Using just the seat belt carries its own risks in an accident, such as causing lesions in the abdominal region. That’s why I don’t think that young children should be transported in this way,” she warned.

“If the coach or bus does not have the necessary conditions to install the removable safety seats for these children, then the transport shouldn’t be used at all,” she added.

In order to reach an agreement on the use of the removable child safety seats, the two associations are to set up a Safety Commission made up of drivers and supervisors.