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Child safety report cards – prevention and protection

Every hour of every day, a child dies in the EU as a result of an injury. According to a recent report, injury is the leading cause of death and disability for children and adolescents in every EU country.

The child safety report cards, released by the European Child Safety Alliance (funded by the EU Health Programme), rates 31 European countries on their strategies and policies to prevent unintentional injuries. These report card assessments have been released every two years since 2007.

The main dangers

  • After injury, the second most prevalent cause of death to children in Europe is drowning. Whether it occurs at home or on holiday, drowning can happen very quickly.
  • The third most common cause of death by unintentional injury is poisoning. Every year, 3 000 children aged 0-14 die of acute poisoning.
  • Fourth come falls – which, according to hospital data, are the leading cause of children's hospital admissions and visits to accident and emergency departments.
  • Fifth are burns and scalds.

The report notes that governments tend to give lower priority – and therefore also fewer resources - to policies to preventing home injuries than they do to transport safety. More effort is therefore needed to adopt, implement and enforce policies that have proven effective in reducing the incidence of drowning, falls, burns and scalds, poisonings and choking/strangulation involving children.

Child safety across Europe

Since no country has adopted all the recommended safety measures, there is room for improvement across the board. Accident rates in the countries with the poorest record are six times higher than in countries with the lowest rates.

  • Only 13 countries (42%) have a national law requiring use of a helmet while cycling. 7 of those countries have legislated since the first report card assessments. Only 8 of the 13 report that the law is fully implemented and enforced.
  • No country has a legal requirement that a rear-facing child passenger restraint be used for children under 4 - though this is normal practice in Sweden, where child passenger deaths in this age group have been reduced to almost zero.
  • Only 7 countries (23%) require barrier fencing to prevent children from falling into private pools and drowning, but only in France is the law fully implemented and enforced. The French law allows a choice of prevention measures of which barrier fencing is only one.
  • Only 15 countries (48%) have a national law requiring child-proof packaging of medications, and in 3 of those the law is not fully implemented and enforced.
  • Only 16 countries (52%) have a national law requiring devices to prevent children from falling out of windows (e.g. window guards) in multi-storey buildings , and more than half of those laws apply only to new buildings or renovations.

The report concludes that investment in child-injury prevention in all relevant sectors (both national and European) is still not commensurate with the size of the problem.

For more information.

European Child Safety Alliance

Health – EU – Babies and Children

EuroSafe Programme