AUSTIN, TX — The Texas Department of Transportation has a message for parents and caregivers: buckle up your children. State officials say there is cause for alarm: researchers at the Texas Transportation Institute estimate that as many as 42 percent of children under the age of 17 ride in vehicles without the benefit of child passenger safety seats and safety belts. This means as many as 1.6 million children in Texas ride in vehicles without proper protection.
Motor vehicle crashes are the leading cause of death of children, ages 2 to 14. Safety experts say many of these deaths could be prevented if more infants, toddlers, elementary age children and teens were buckled up. Of the 200 children under 15 killed in Texas in 2006, nearly half were not properly secured.
“It’s a public safety crisis when four of every 10 children and teens under 17 in Texas aren’t protected with child safety seats or safety belts,” said Terry Pence, TxDOT’s traffic safety director. “It’s the responsibility of every parent and caregiver to make sure their children are safely restrained – every trip, every time.”
The reminder comes as part of National Child Passenger Safety Week, September 21-27, 2008.
Free safety seat check-ups are being held throughout Texas as part of the annual focus on protecting young passengers. Parents and caregivers can call Safe Riders toll-free at the Texas Department of State Health Services at 1-800-252-8255 for details.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) says child safety seats can reduce fatal injury by 71 percent for infants and by 54 percent for toddlers, ages 1 to 4. For maximum child passenger safety, Pence said parents and caregivers should refer to the following 4 Steps for Kids guidelines for determining which restraint system is best suited to protect children based on age and size:
1. Keep infants in the back seat, in rear-facing child safety seats, as long as possible up to the height or weight limit of the particular seat. At a minimum, keep infants rear-facing until at least age 1 and at least 20 pounds.
2. When children outgrow their rear-facing seats, they should ride in forward-facing child safety seats, in the back seat, until they reach the upper weight or height limit of the particular seat (usually around age 4 and 40 pounds).
3. Once children outgrow their forward-facing seats, they should ride in booster seats, in the back seat, until the vehicle seat belts fit properly. Seat belts fit properly when the lap belt lays across the upper thighs and the shoulder belt fits across the chest (usually at age 8 or when they are 4’9” tall).
4. When children outgrow their booster seats, they can use the adult seat belts in the back seat, if they fit properly (lap belt lays across the upper thighs and the shoulder belt fits across the chest).
State law requires children younger than 17 years old to be buckled up in the front and back seat, and those younger than five years old and less than 36 inches tall must be secured in child safety seats. Violations can result in a fine of up to $200.