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Release: Immediate

February 9-15 is National Child Passenger Safety Week

IOWA CITY, Iowa -- The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has designated February 9-15 as National Child Passenger Safety Week, an annual campaign to remind parents and others transporting children of the need to properly secure youngsters riding in motor vehicles.

The NHTSA estimates that child safety seats, when correctly used, can reduce fatalities among children by 71 percent -- one of the most effective safety innovations ever developed. However, as many as 40 percent of children involved in fatal crashes every year are unrestrained.

In Iowa, the Governor's Traffic Safety Bureau reported that 17 children under age 6 were killed in motor vehicle crashes in the state in 1996, the highest figure recorded since statistics were first compiled in 1982. In addition to the fatalities, 60-80 young children are seriously injured in Iowa vehicle crashes each year, according to the GTSB.

Iowa has had a child passenger safety restraint law in effect since 1985, requiring that all vehicle occupants under age 6 be restrained regardless of seating position. In Iowa, enforcement of this law will be emphasized during National Child Passenger Safety Week.

The Iowa Child Passenger Restraint Survey, conducted in 1996 by the University of Iowa Injury Prevention Research Center, estimated that nearly 70 percent of children under the age of 6 were properly secured in a safety seat. While higher than the national average, state safety experts see a continuing need for public information efforts focused on the proper use of child restraint systems.

Recent public attention to the issue of automobile air bags may serve to heighten awareness of the need to provide effective child safety in motor vehicles, according to Craig Zwerling, associate professor of preventive medicine at the UI College of Medicine and director of the UI Injury Prevention Research Center.

"The airbag controversy helps shed light on the proper use of child restraint devices," says Zwerling. "Rear-facing child seats should never be used in the front seat of a vehicle with a passenger-side air bag. The deploying bag striking a rear-facing infant seat can result in fatal injuries to a child.

"Use the vehicle's safety belts to secure the child seat in the back seat of the automobile; for infants, face the seat rearward. The safest place for all children is in the back seat of a vehicle, and buckled up," he says.

For more information about child safety seats and other ways to reduce unintentional childhood injuries, contact Angie McLaughlin, State Coordinator of the Iowa Safe Kids Coalition, at (515) 242-5833 or Jan Goldsmith, GTSB Area Administrator, at (515) 281-6583.