The number of infants and toddlers killed and injured in traffic accidents rose in 1994 for the second year in a row, according to preliminary figures. Transportation officials say proper use of child safety seats could reduce the toll greatly.
Dr. Ricardo Martinez, administrator of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, said the numbers won’t be confirmed until this summer after the states have submitted final reports, but preliminary reports point to a continuation of a deadly trend.
“The fatalities are just the tip of the iceberg,” Martinez said Tuesday at the National Child Car Seat Safety Conference. “The injuries are also up, and many of those injuries result in lifetime problems.”
According to preliminary numbers, about 700 children from newborns to age 4 died in traffic accidents in 1994, and 75,000 were injured. That’s up from 616 killed and 60,000 injured in 1993.
The transportation agency said the 1994 figures appear to be the worst since 1991 when 743 of the nation’s youngest children died in road accidents.
That dropped to 581 in 1992.
Cheryl Neverman, a transportation administrator, said the rise could be attributed to anything from more traffic to new parents not being fully aware of the safety value of child car seats.
Traffic accidents are the leading cause of death and injury among children from birth to age 4.
The government estimates proper use of child car seats could reduce the risk of death or injury by 71 percent.
Even though child car seats have been required by law for the past 10 years in every state, four in 10 infants and toddlers still are being allowed to ride without them, according to the transportation agency.
And at least 25 percent of parents who do use the child restraints are using them improperly, Martinez said.
As part of a new public-awareness campaign, Martinez presented the agency’s Public Service Award to Midas Corp. for its Project Safe Baby which has sold at cost or donated 96,000 child car seats since 1993.
The program also explains to parents how to install and use the devices.
Police departments in more than two dozen cities also are conducting safety checkpoints this week to warn drivers they must have their young children correctly strapped into approved car seats.