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University of Iowa News Release

Jan. 8, 2004

Iowa Child Passenger Restraint Usage At All-Time High

The percentage of Iowa children who are properly buckled in while riding in motor vehicles is at an all-time high, according to a statewide survey conducted by the University of Iowa Injury Prevention Research Center (UI IPRC) (Click here to jump to the chart below).

The overall percentage of Iowa children under age six who are appropriately restrained while riding in a motor vehicle climbed to 84.1 percent in the 2003 Child Restraint Survey. This is the highest level recorded since these annual surveys began in 1988. Surveyors observed motor vehicles carrying 5,772 children under age six, of which 4,854 were judged to be appropriately restrained.

John Lundell, deputy director of the UI IPRC, emphasized the importance of properly restraining children in motor vehicles.

" In Iowa, motor vehicle crashes are the leading cause of unintentional injury-related deaths among children ages 14 and under," Lundell said. "In Iowa, approximately 40 children each year are killed in motor vehicle crashes, one every nine days."

According to information from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, child safety seats reduce the risk of death in cars by approximately 70 percent for infants and 55 percent for toddlers.

From May through August of 2003, UI IPRC-trained surveyors observed vehicles at 37 different locations around the state, including urban, rural and highway sites. The Child Restraint Survey is designed to measure compliance with Iowa child occupant protection law. Current Iowa law requires that children under age three ride in a child safety seat. Children between ages three and six must be in either a safety seat or buckled in with a seat belt.

Efforts are currently underway by the Iowa SAFE KIDS Coalition to strengthen Iowa's law by raising the age of children who must be restrained and requiring the use of booster seats for young children too small for seatbelts. Kathy Leggett, coordinator of the Iowa SAFE KIDS Coalition, considers the Child Restraint Survey results as evidence that the vast majority of Iowans will comply with the state's child occupant protection law.

" This is why it is important that the law incorporate the appropriate parameters that have been scientifically proven to be most effective in saving children's lives," Leggett said.

As in previous years, the UI IPRC survey found that children riding in motor vehicles in rural areas of Iowa were safely secured in the vehicle less often than those in more populated areas.

In communities with fewer than 2,500 residents, 71 percent of the children were appropriately restrained. By comparison, Iowa's largest communities (more than 50,000 residents) averaged 85 percent. Communities with the lowest rates of child restraint use were Jefferson (54.2 percent) and Sigourney (59.0 percent). The highest rates were recorded in West Des Moines (97.9 percent) and Des Moines (95.0 percent).

IPRC researchers are concerned that parents may mistakenly believe rural roads are safer to travel than urban streets. "Although traffic crashes are more common in urban areas," Lundell noted, "death or serious injuries are more likely to result from rural crashes, where driving speeds are often higher and emergency treatment resources can be farther away."

On the positive side, surveyors in 2003 observed 87.1 percent of children under age six riding in back seats, which is the safest location for children of all ages to ride. That percentage has increased significantly over the years; in 1993 only 52.3 percent of Iowa children were observed in rear seats.

The Child Restraint Survey is supported by the Governor's Traffic Safety Bureau, with funds from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

For more information on the Child Restraint Survey, contact John Lundell at the UI Injury Prevention Research Center at 319-335-4458.

The University of Iowa Injury Prevention Research Center
2003 2003 2003
Number of Number of Child
Children Children Restraint
Observed Restrained Usage
Algona 195 171 87.7 percent
Armstrong 104 90 86.5 percent
Belle Plaine 168 127 75.6 percent
Council Bluffs-Hwy6-K-Mart 83 62 74.7 percent
Council Bluffs-Mall of the Bluffs 87 54 62.1 percent
Cedar Falls 183 165 90.2 percent
Cedar Rapids 210 182 86.7 percent
Cherokee 159 144 90.6 percent
Davenport 218 160 73.4 percent
Des Moines-E. Euclid 146 120 82.2 percent
Des Moines-Merle Hay 139 132 95.0 percent
Des Moines-Southridge 139 119 85.6 percent
West Des Moines 142 139 97.9 percent
Dubuque 157 145 92.4 percent
Dyersville 103 82 79.6 percent
Fort Dodge 204 181 88.7 percent
Glenwood 132 97 73.5 percent
Guthrie Center 104 71 68.3 percent
Iowa City 163 133 81.6 percent
Jefferson 107 58 54.2 percent
Mason City 186 162 87.1 percent
Newton 194 170 87.6 percent
Ottumwa 154 139 90.3 percent
Pocahontas 129 99 76.7 percent
Red Oak 107 73 68.2 percent
Sigourney 161 95 59.0 percent
Sioux City 188 169 89.9 percent
Storm Lake 193 177 91.7 percent
Waterloo 186 165 88.7 percent
Waverly 131 119 90.8 percent
I-35 Ankeny 243 231 95.1 percent
I-80 Council Bluffs 208 169 81.3 percent
I-80 Des Moines 56 46 82.1 percent
I-80 Victor 62 50 80.6 percent
US 30 Ames 274 256 93.4 percent
US 30 Boone 113 85 75.2 percent
US 30 Marshalltown 244 217 88.9 percent
TOTALS 5772 4854 84.1 percent

STORY SOURCE: The University of Iowa College of Public Health, Office of Communications, 4261 Westlawn, Iowa City, Iowa 52242.

MEDIA CONTACT: Dan McMillan, 319-335-6835,