Buckle up your child

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

This week has been designated as National Child Passenger Safety Week by the Missouri State Highway Patrol, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) and the Ad Council. When I think of child passenger safety, I can't help but think of the photo of Brittney Spears driving down the road with her young son unbuckled in her lap. This photo has been shown numerous times on television and in magazines as the tumultuous life of the troubled star continues to make headlines. This image is frightening, but Spears is not the only mother to ever transport her child in this fashion. With motor vehicle traffic crashes as the leading cause of death among people ages 3 through 33, parents are putting their children's life as risk by not placing them in a car seat or booster seat or buckling them up in a seat belt.

According to NHTSA research, child restraint devices provide the best protection for all children up to age 8. The problem is that all devices are not alike and should be purchased and used with the child's age and size in mind. Children over the age of 8 should always wear a seat belt.

Children ages 4 to 8 are 59 percent less likely to be injured in a crash if they are using a booster seat rather than a seat belt. It also has been proven that the children of parents who use seat belts are more likely to use seat belts themselves, especially when they become drivers.

Because seat belt laws vary by state, I am listing below key parts of Missouri statutes that pertain to child passenger safety.

• Children less than 4 are required to use an appropriate child passenger restraint system.

• Children less than 40 pounds, regardless of age, must be secured in a child passenger restraint system appropriate for the child.

• Children ages 4 to 8 who weigh at least 40 pounds but less than 80 pounds and are under 4'9" tall, must be secured in a child passenger restraint system or booster seat appropriate for that child.

• Children ages 8 through 15 must wear seat belts regardless of the type of vehicle they are riding in or where they are seated.

• Persons less than 18 operating or riding in trucks must wear seat belts.

• No person under the age of 18 is allowed to ride in the unenclosed bed of a truck with a licensed gross weight of less than 12,000 pounds on lettered highways, federal or state maintained highways or within city limits.

• It is the driver's responsibility to make sure that passengers under the age of 16 are buckled in properly. Those 16 and over are responsible for themselves.

Another key piece of safety information involves where child safety seats should be placed in the vehicle. Infant seats designed for children up to 22 to 30 pounds should be placed into the vehicle so the infant faces the rear of the vehicle in a semi-reclined position. Rear-facing infant seats should never be used in a front passenger seat equipped with an air bag.

So this week, we hope drivers and parents will take time to make sure your child is buckled up safely or using the proper safety restraint system. For those who need more information on this topic or guidance on whether or not they are using the proper safety seat, visit www.nhtsa.com. The Barry County Health Department should also be able to provide information to parents.