/ Parenting

Do parents really want more buggy safety features?

Mum leaping in the air with buggy

Wrist straps on pushchairs are a compulsory safety feature in Australia, and a new survey suggests British parents are calling for the same here. But are tighter buggy laws really what mums and dads want – or need?

I recently received an unexpected press release in my inbox: ‘British parents call for tighter laws over buggy safety’, ran the headline.

I’ve been overseeing the Which? test of pushchairs for a number of years, so every parent of pushchair-aged children I meet is grilled about how and why they chose their particular buggy.

Many tell me that safety is a key issue, but I’ve never found they were worked up enough about pushchair safety to actively campaign for a change in the law.

Runaway pushchair perils

The release itself came from the makers of a pram safety strap called the Buggy Tug – a wrist strap made from neoprene that connects parent and pushchair, stopping one inadvertently rolling away from the other.

It included the findings of a survey looking into parents’ attitudes towards buggy safety, following a recent news report of a pushchair rolling away from a mother in York who had been momentarily distracted by her other child. Her lapse of attention landed the pushchair, baby and three rescuers in the River Ouse. Luckily no-one was harmed.

According to the research, conducted with 93 families, over 72% had experienced a pram start to roll away after letting go for a split second, or knew someone that had. 74% said their buggy or pram did not come with a safety wrist strap as standard, yet 77% said they would feel more secure if their buggy had one.

Strapping up Down Under

Buggy Tug inventor, Di Mayze, came up with the product after seeing ‘horrific footage of a buggy rolling under a train in Melbourne’. Wrist straps are now a legal requirement on all pushchairs sold in Australia.

Back in Britain, 47% of those surveyed thought a buggy should come equipped with a wrist strap. Most tellingly, a further 41% went as far as to say that it should be a legal requirement in the UK. Di believes the ‘feedback from parents is loud and clear – they would definitely like to see more safety measures when it comes to the security of a child in a buggy or pram.’

But is that necessarily the case? There is already a standard piece of safety equipment on all pushchairs that will stop them rolling away – the brake. The best piece of safety equipment in the world can’t stop an accident if it isn’t used.

The Buggy Tug is cheap and widely available, so is it really necessary to add an extra burden on manufacturers to provide one on every pushchair?

Sarah says:
11 August 2011

The safest measure is a parent wholly concentrating on the task in hand. Back in the real world there are a number of distractions which will stop a parent being fully in control of a pushchair, elder siblings, busy pavements etc, etc. For me, my pushchair is overloaded most of the time, too many bags, teddy bears, scooters etc. I would be worried that my wrist would be wrenched off with all that weight if it was such a dramatic situation that was taking my buggy away from me. I don’t believe that a wrist strap is essential and I certainly don’t feel that it should be law. You cannot safety proof every single eventuality and paying attention and using the brake should be the way forward.

Phil says:
12 August 2011

Wrist straps could be made compulsory but it would take a further change in the law to make their use compulsory. Another approach would be to fit automatic brakes to pushchairs so the parent has to keep a lever or button depressed before the chair can be moved but that would be expensive and could be defeated. In the end it comes down to the parents, if they care enough about their children they’ll use a safety strap.

Phil says:
12 August 2011

Quite, for which reason owners would find a way to defeat it.

Sandie says:
16 August 2011

If parents don’t take full advantage of the safety features already present on pushchairs, it seems unlikely that a wrist strap will prevent a significant number of accidents. You frequently see children who are not strapped in or a foot propped in front of a wheel while waiting at a light in lieu of using the brake. Parents have lots to contend with and it is simply not feasible to expect them to use a buggy in an ideal way all the time. As such a wrist strap seems like something that might be useful, might be liked by some people and may get used now and again – but is not essential and will be a nuisance to some.

Claire Allen says:
16 August 2011

I read this article with a mixture of horror and amusement! I am astounded that we should be considering taking up the precious time of the law courts and Parliament to make it LAW that a buggy has a wrist strap, are they then going to make it law that parents use the wrist strap? Politics aside, I am further concerned that yet again we are looking to ‘fix’ a problem that is solely down to the responsibility of a parent. I am amused by the thought of having to ‘unhook’ myself from the buggy each time I want to access either my baby, my shopping, my handbag etc, it is not until you can’t do something freely that you realise just how much you do it. I also am fearful that in these more opportunistic dangerous times, a vulnerable woman strapped to her buggy has yet another thing to deal with if she gets bumped in the street or set upon by a bag snatcher. Personally I think it should be left as an option, it could be emphasized as an ‘essential’ gift for the baby shower, it could be promoted by pram sellers, and even recognised as a ‘must have’ item in antenatal classes, but it should not become law.

Helen says:
16 March 2013

I live in a hilly area and would like to purchase a wrist strap to give me peace of mind that my heavy pram can’t escape as I go downhill. This is an occaision when use of the brake wouldn’t be appropriate. But it is bonkers to think it is something to be legislated for. I imagine some parents would get out of the habit of using the brake if they were forced to use another, similar purpose device. I have also bought a second hand pram / buggy, so how would legislation practically be applied to the second hand market? A far more sensible idea would be for safety straps to be more widely available and their use promoted. Prams and buggies are expensive enough without giving the manufacturers a requirement to add features.