April 19, 2009 in News

Getting there: Keep kids in the back

By The Spokesman-Review
 

Spokane law enforcement officers found scores of child safety-restraint violations in March during the first stage of a program to improve compliance with the law.

Extra patrols launched last month under a Washington Traffic Safety Commission grant resulted in 353 citations, with about half for child-restraint violations.

In addition, nearly 100 warnings were issued.

Spokane police Officer Teresa Fuller said she found “some definite egregious” problems in the stops she made last month.

One driver had a 5-year-old and 7-year-old buckled together in the front seat on the way to school. Children should ride in rear seats until they are 13, and they should never be buckled together.

A 17-year-old driver with only an instruction permit, not a driver’s license, had a brother younger than 13 riding in the front seat.

A grandparent was cited for allowing an 11-year-old to ride in the front seat. The grandfather asked whether the officer had a right to pull him over for a seat-belt violation. She did, Fuller said. Seat-belt violations can be the basis for a legal stop.

Since Washington updated its child-restraint law in 2007, officers have had trouble getting the public to follow its requirements, in part because the law applies to various stages of child growth.

“A lot of it is just getting the education out there,” Fuller said.

With the advent of air bags in the late 1990s, it is critical to keep children in the back seat until they are 13.

Here is how the Washington State Safety Restraint Coalition describes the risk faced by small children in the front seat:

“An infant in a rear-facing seat or a child who is unrestrained or out of position can be seriously injured or killed by an inflating air bag. Whether or not the car has air bags, the safest place for all children who are not yet 13 years old to ride is in the rear seat.”

Yet officers in the Spokane area recently found 72 children improperly riding in the front seat. Police issued 90 citations or warnings for other types of child-restraint violations.

The basic rules:

•Until age 13, children must ride in the rear seat of the vehicle.

•Children from newborn through 12 months and less than 20 pounds must be placed in a rear-facing infant seat. Drivers should use that seat for as long as the seat allows.

•From age 13 months to 4 years, children should be in a child car seat with a five-point harness.

•From age 4 until the child is 4 feet 9 inches tall, children should ride in a booster seat. Boosters should only be placed with a lap and shoulder belt.

•In all cases, the seat equipment, harnesses and belts must be installed and used properly.

Motorcycle endorsements

The Washington State Patrol reminds motorcyclists to get proper training and obtain motorcycle endorsements on their licenses.

Of the 14 fatal motorcycle accidents investigated by the WSP this year, four of the drivers had no motorcycle endorsement, which is required under Washington law. The endorsement is issued after the motorcyclist passes written and driving skills tests.

For more information on motorcycle endorsements, go to www.endorseyoursport.com.

In the Spokane area, Westside Motorsports and Spokane MotorSchool offer classes.

A big welcome

The Associated Garden Clubs in Spokane is contributing a $20,000 “Welcome to Spokane” sign at the northeast corner of Fourth Avenue and Division Street. Garden club members held a groundbreaking ceremony Friday at the busy intersection.

The 20-foot-tall sign will greet motorists exiting the eastbound lanes of Interstate 90 at Division Street.

Work at Pines Road

Work to improve the I-90 interchange at Pines Road resumed last week, and motorists are warned to anticipate brief lane restrictions from 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. each day. The project will reconfigure traffic using Montgomery Avenue and the adjacent freeway ramps. Completion is expected this spring.

Lighting up

A new traffic signal at Sprague Avenue and Conklin Road in Spokane Valley has been installed to help motorists navigate the growing commercial area. The light will begin flashing today and go into full operation Thursday.

Contact Mike Prager at (509) 459-5454 or mikep@spokesman.com.


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