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Release: Nov. 19, 1999

Hospital applauds law enforcement efforts to buckle up children

IOWA CITY, Iowa -- The Children's Hospital of Iowa today announced its support of law enforcement efforts to protect children involved in traffic accidents, the leading cause of death among children under age 15.

Across the nation this Thanksgiving week (November 22-28), the Iowa City Police Department and other law enforcement agencies will be involved in a mobilization effort to increase the enforcement of child passenger safety laws. Thousands of U.S. law enforcement agencies will take part in the second wave of the 1999 "Operation ABC Mobilization: America Buckles Up Children" -- the largest-ever coordinated enforcement effort aimed at drivers who don't buckle up children.

"At this season of Thanksgiving, we need to show our appreciation for the untold numbers of law enforcement officers in every state who work tirelessly to protect our children from the greatest danger they face -- being unrestrained in a crash," said Ricardo Martinez, administrator of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), co-sponsor of the Operation ABC Mobilization. "We know these officers will be energized by the groundswell of support from organizations such as the Children's Hospital of Iowa across the country."

"Law enforcement does so much good that goes unappreciated that the staff members of the Children's Hospital of Iowa felt the need to applaud every officer who takes the life-saving step of enforcing the child passenger safety laws," said Frank Morriss, M.D., professor and head of the UI Department of Pediatrics. "Our child health specialists are speaking out for all of the people we serve because each one of us wants to protect children. The Operation ABC Mobilization is the kind of broad, community-based movement our nation needs to recognize and thank for putting a priority on saving children's lives."

The Operation ABC Mobilization comes on the heels of extremely successful mobilizations in 1998, as well as this year's Memorial Day week mobilization. A study recently conducted by NHTSA found that 19 million more Americans buckled up in 1998.

Most importantly, there is now strong statistical evidence that Operation ABC is working to save lives. Between 1996 -- when the Operation ABC Mobilization began -- and 1998, child fatalities in crashes decreased by 12.3 percent. Over that same time period nationwide, child safety restraint use for toddlers has increased by 30 percent; now almost 90 percent of toddlers are restrained while traveling in motor vehicles. In the same time period, the use of seat belts for children age 5-15 has risen to almost 70 percent.

"The impact of these Operation ABC Mobilizations clearly illustrates that the combination of educating drivers about how dangerous it is for children to be unrestrained and enforcing the safety restraint laws is tremendously effective," said Jody Kurtt, associate director of Children's and Women's Services at the UI Hospitals and Clinics. "Crashes are the leading cause of death and injury among children between ages 0-15. Six out every 10 children killed in crashes are completely unrestrained. That's why we are urging zero tolerance for unbuckled kids, and why the Children's Hospital of Iowa gives its 'endorsement for enforcement' and pledges our support for this campaign to protect children. The officers who enforce seat belt laws are true heroes because they help save the lives of both children and adults."

The Children's Hospital of Iowa offers families an extensive car seat loaner program, including regular car seats and special seats for high-risk infants and children with orthopaedic problems. The CHI's Special Care Nurseries also provide a special evaluation program that helps determine an infant's readiness and tolerance to car seat positioning. Staff members have also received special training to conduct car seat installation inspections.

"We are very passionate about this topic because we have seen what terrible injuries and deaths happen when children are not properly restrained," said Michele Alpen, a nursing specialist in UI Health Care's Trauma Center. "We want to do everything we can to prevent those tragedies."

A survey conducted in the summer of 1999 by the UI Injury Prevention Research Center showed that almost three-quarters (74.8 percent) of children under age 6 appeared to be appropriately restrained in motor vehicles. However, the rates of safety restraint were lower in the rural areas of the state compared to the more urban areas.

University of Iowa Health Care describes the partnership between the UI College of Medicine and the UI Hospitals and Clinics and the patient care, medical education and research programs and services they provide.