Feb. 11–17 is Child Passenger Safety Week: keep your children safely buckled year-round!   


by Carla Saavedra-Santiago

Despite ongoing efforts to better protect child passengers in cars, motor vehicle crashes remain the number one cause of accidental injury-related death among children ages 14 and under. In 2003, motor vehicle crashes claimed the lives of more than 1,500 child passengers and resulted in an estimated 220,000 injuries.

OU-COM’s Community Health Programs (CHP) and the Ohio Buckles Buckeyes Program are joining forces during Child Passenger Safety Week, February 11–17, to educate parents on the steps they need to take to prevent the injury, or save the lives, of their children.

“Parents need to know how to safely secure their children in their cars,” says Mary McPherson, R.N., nurse coordinator of CHP’s car seat program.

Riding unrestrained or not properly restrained is the greatest risk factor for death and injury among child occupants of motor vehicles, and only 19 percent of children older than four years old and 40 pounds or more are properly secured in belt-positioning booster seats.

In Ohio, children between the ages of four and eight years old are the most likely victims because the law does not require them to be in any kind of restraint system other than an adult seat belt. They are at risk because adult seat belts do not afford them adequate safety. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), a child should be in a booster seat until he or she is at least 4'9", 80 lbs., or eight years old. The NHTSA also suggests that children remain in the backseat until they’re 12 because of a possibly fatal airbag deployment.

CHP and the Ohio Buckles Buckeyes Program hold car seat installation classes every other month at the Albany Fire Department. The Ohio Buckles Buckeyes Program provides booster seats to low-income families for a nominal fee of five dollars, says McPherson.

In the class, parents are shown a video on the importance of child passenger safety seats including booster seats, proper fitting and installation techniques and are apprised of the Ohio car seat law. The seat then is installed by a certified technician.

Earlier this year, Consumer Reports released its infant car-seat test report, which stated that all 11 car seats tested failed its side and front-impact tests. After the NHTSA reviewed the magazine’s testing procedures, it found that the tests were being conducted at 70 mph, almost twice as fast as the magazine initially had claimed. Consumer Reports withdrew their claim Jan. 18, after the NHTSA tested all the car seats under the 38.5 mph conditions that the magazine had stated. It found that all 11 passed, McPherson says.

“We just want to make parents aware that the Consumer Reports’ tests weren’t very controlled.”

Parents may call McPherson for information on how to keep children safe in their car seats. SafeKids USA also has a child passenger safety section on its Web site, www.safekids.org.

Julie Garner, a staff member at Health Recovery Services, Division of Community Services, also is available for information and installation needs, she says.

“Julie is a great asset to the Ohio Buckles Buckeyes Program in the Athens area,” McPherson says. “She has a passion for car seat safety and is a wonderful resource person as well as being a certified car seat technician.”

An important, but sometimes neglected, simple step in securing the safety of their children is for parents to set a good example, McPherson says.

“Always buckle up all the time no matter where you go, even if you’re just going down the street.”

McPherson can be contacted at (740) 593-2481. Garner can be contacted at (740) 589-3680 or jgarner@hrs.org.

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Last updated: 03/27/2008