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Norfolk mum’s drive to improve car safety for children

11:13 20 February 2013

King’s Lynn nursery worker Michelle O’Donnell is campaigning for more youngsters to be placed in rear-facing car seats for longer. She is pictured with her son Danny, aged three.

King’s Lynn nursery worker Michelle O’Donnell is campaigning for more youngsters to be placed in rear-facing car seats for longer. She is pictured with her son Danny, aged three.

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A mum-of-three hopes to push car safety standards forward by encouraging more parents to keep their children facing backwards for longer.

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King’s Lynn nursery worker Michelle O’Donnell is campaigning for more youngsters to be placed in rear-facing car seats until the age of four after research suggested they were five times safer than front-facing seats.

And while it is common for Scandinavian families to adopt this approach, it is more likely a UK child will be moved into a forward-facing seat from the age of nine months.

Miss O’Donnell, of Gaskell Way, said young children were more likely to suffer serious and potentially fatal injuries if they faced forwards when involved in a car crash.

She said: “Sweden has been doing this [rear-facing seats] since the 1960s.

“A pioneering professor looked at how spacemen travelled and how forces affected them and the best way they travelled and then thought ‘why don’t we put this in car seats?’.”

Miss O’Donnell said she had moved her first two children, Emily, now 12, and Oliver, seven, into front-facing seats from an early age, and she was shocked to learn of the potential dangers that posed.

She said she did not want to make the same mistake with her third child, Danny, aged three.

Miss O’Donnell has since bought Swedish rear-facing seats, manufactured in the UK, from a Volvo dealer and a supplier in Milton Keynes.

She said they cost around £220, around £20 more than she would expect to pay for a good quality front-facing seat, but if used properly they could last for longer.

Miss O’Donnell added: “I want to see as many people possible as I drive down the road with children facing backwards.

“People ask: ‘how do you see your children when driving?’

“Firstly, you shouldn’t be turning round to look at your children when driving. Secondly, I have a mirror which I attach to the head-rest of the back seat.

“I can look in my rear view mirror and I can see him looking back at me.”

Miss O’Donnell said steps were being taken in the UK to make changes. And she said she was hopeful Norfolk County Council’s support for her campaign will help.

Iain Temperton, team manager of the county council’s casualty reduction section, said: “A large proportion of Norfolk’s child casualties occur in cars, rather than as pedestrians or cyclists.

“It is essential that parents are able to make well informed decisions when choosing child seats and I admire Michelle’s commitment to providing this invaluable message.”

The Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents, along with Scandanavian road safety groups, are among those noting support for rear-facing seats.

Alec Byrne, Norfolk Casualty Reduction Partnership chairman, said he “wholeheartedly” supported Miss O’Donnell’s campaign.

He said: “I am sure that other parents will be convinced by a mother who has nothing but the best interests of children at heart.”

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