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Buckle release – Eliminating road safety risks for children with disability

Project overview

Aim: To reduce the risk of buckle release for children by building road safety knowledge and understanding about the challenges of buckle release. This project represents the first research of this type globally.

Partners: Office of Road Safety, La Trobe University Centre for Technology Infusion.

Years: 2020-21

The challenge

Seventy four per cent of children with autism escape their child restraint, causing serious road safety risks for the child, family and other road users.

Buckle covers are an Assistive Technology often prescribed by allied health professionals for children with disability who habitually get out of their child restraint or seatbelt.

Despite the obvious need for these devices, and the fact they are often prescribed, there is a lack of research and knowledge about their safety, features, and use. This presents an unacceptable road safety risk for the child, family and other road users.

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Findings Summary

Together with La Trobe University, we undertook a project to better understand the challenges of buckle release. The project included:

Desktop and functional review

This review assessed commonly available buckle covers against the relevant Australian Standard. It found that, despite the real world need for these products, none comply with Australian standards and they are of variable quality.

Legislative and regulatory review

This review uncovered significant differences in the regulation, policy directives and guidance materials relating to the supply and use of buckle covers across jurisdictions. This makes this area very complex and confusing.

Consultation

Consultation with diverse stakeholders gave us insights into the current challenges and opportunities. It revealed unintended road safety risks, that current solutions do not meet user needs, and there are barriers to developing high quality market solutions.

Guidelines for innovation

This document gives vehicle manufacturers and innovators guidance to inspire them to develop new and safer products. We found that what is needed are complete vehicle safety solutions that consist of products designed to work together. These will give allied health professionals the flexibility to respond to the wide range of individual child and family needs.

Buckle cover model policy

Aimed at allied health professionals, this policy provides guidance on best practice approaches and legal requirements for prescribing child restraint and seatbelt buckle covers for use in motor vehicles in Australia.

Funded by the Office Of Road Safety through the Road Safety Innovation Fund (Round 1).

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