Engaging with the media to promote the use of seat-belts by children in Uruguay
Until recently, school buses in Uruguay were not equipped with basic safety equipment, including seat-belts, nor were they regularly inspected. The Fundación Gonzalo Rodríguez, established in 2000, began advocating for action to redress this situation.
Initially, it conducted research on issues such as parents' knowledge of the importance of seat-belts, the availability of seat-belts in new and used cars, and the need for training among paediatricians, police, educators, legislators and others about seat-belts and their use. After a year of research and many meetings with key national actors, including vehicle manufacturers, the organization developed and launched its campaign.
The organization took advantage of increased attention to this issue from the media following the death of a nine-year-old girl in April 2010, in a crash in which her school van was involved. The van had no seat-belts and there were no special requirements in place at the time for the transportation of children.
Following this tragic incident, the Fundación Gonzalo Rodriguez went through two intense weeks of media engagement, describing the current situation and demanding changes in current legislation. This included 13 television appearances, 21 radio interviews, and 12 print media articles. In a country the size of Uruguay with its 3.4 million people, this level of media coverage is impressive.
The organization benefited from an in-depth knowledge of the subject, a clear message, a campaign with concrete and measurable objectives, and well-designed and visually appealing advocacy materials. Owing in part to the campaign and the enormous support from society at large that it generated, national legislation was revised to require the use of three-point seat-belts in school buses and regularly scheduled inspections became compulsory. The organization’s engagement with the media at a critical moment of the campaign has contributed to this success.
The Fundación Gonzalo Rodríguez continues to advocate for legislative change on the use of child restraints in private vehicles, as this is not yet mandated by law.