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A MONTH OF. . .

Making Kids and Cars a Safe Mix

September 15, 1997|SHARI ROAN

September is Baby Safety Month, but we've expanded the definition to look at all "babies," from infants to older children. Today, an alarming look at children and automobiles.

You can count the automobile as one place where U.S. children are not very safe. Dismaying facts from the National Safe Kids Campaign show that many adults aren't following the guidelines to protect kids.

* Only about 60% of the 35 million children 8 and younger in the United States ride restrained in automobiles.

* Of the kids who are restrained, about 80% are buckled up incorrectly.

* Four out of five car seats are improperly used. Car seats, when installed and used correctly, reduce the risk of death by 69% in children younger than 1 and by 47% in toddlers 1 to 4.

* About 1,400 children die and 280,000 are injured each year as motor vehicle passengers.

* Children 4 and younger account for nearly 40% of all childhood motor vehicle occupant deaths.

* Children 14 and younger are more likely to die from motor vehicle crashes on weekends (50% of fatalities), during the months of May to September (50%) and between 3 and 6 p.m. (27%).

* Seventy-five percent of crashes occur within 25 miles of home.

* Sixty percent of crashes occur on roads with posted speed limits of 40 mph or lower.

* As of September 1996, 26 children younger than 10 have been killed by passenger-side air bags.

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, children should ride in the back seat, wearing seat belts or secured in a child safety seat. If children must ride in the front seat, belt them in (lap and shoulder) and move the seat back as far as it can go, and never put a rear-facing child safety seat in the front.

Consumers should look for a car seat certification label that shows the seat meets or exceeds Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard 213 (FMVSS 213). Every car seat should have this certification.

* Next week: Children and fire safety.

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