April 11, 2010 in City

On one vital safety issue, kids should take back seat

By The Spokesman-Review
Video: How to install an infant car seat

The Safe Kids Spokane Safety Team checks out new child-restraint seats on Tuesday. From left: Marion Lee, Renee Witmer, Ken Applewhaite, Erin Lance, Tim Steiner and Teresa Fuller.
(Full-size photo)

Motor vehicle crashes are the leading cause of death for children between the ages of 2 and 14, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. Child safety seats reduce fatal injury by 71 percent for infants and 54 percent for toddlers.

The monthlong focus of Our Kids: Our Business is growing children into successful adults. The proper use of child safety seats can help get them to adulthood, period. Some car seat facts:

There’s not yet a car seat for dummies, but experts are working on it.

“Car seat manuals were written by attorneys to protect the companies and not for parents to understand,” explained Teresa Fuller, a Spokane Police Department officer whose passion is child safety. “But now car seat manufacturers and car manufacturers are working together to standardize the language and the functions. One of the things that came out of that was the LATCH (Lower Anchors and Tethers for CHildren) system (straps from the child safety seat connect to metal anchors in the vehicle). In all cars manufactured after 2003, you have to have two latch positions in the car.”

•Most adults get it wrong.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: “Restraint use among young children often depends upon the driver’s seat belt use. Almost 40 percent of children riding with unbelted drivers were themselves unrestrained.”

And even those adults who do the right thing often do it the wrong way. Again, from the CDC: “One study found that 72 percent of nearly 3,500 observed car and booster seats were misused in a way that could be expected to increase a child’s risk of injury during a crash.”

The experts know their stuff.

They are called car seat technicians, and it takes 32 hours to become one.

“There are tests all the way through that you have to pass to be certified,” Fuller said. “It’s so our technicians can work with 99 percent of seats, 99 percent of cars, 99 percent of kids.”

•No, kids weren’t safer in cars in the ’50s and ’60s.

Baby boomers often wonder how they survived childhood. They rode in cars without safety seats or seat belts. But children died in collisions back in boomer days, too. Those deaths, in fact, prompted awareness campaigns and mandatory safety seat laws.

The laws and the campaigns made a difference. Between 1987 and 1997 – the decade when car seats and use of seat belts reached critical mass – the fatality rate from motor vehicle collisions dropped from 2.4 deaths per 100 million vehicle miles traveled to 1.6 deaths per 100 million vehicle miles traveled.

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