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  • Children's Traffic Deaths Remain High
    CDC Urges Use of Safety Devices

    Feb. 25, 2000

    ATLANTA (AP) -- Little progress has been made in reducing the number of car accident deaths among children ages 4 to 8, in part because drivers continue to leave them unrestrained by any safety device, according to a government report.

    The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reported Thursday that from 1994 to 1998, 2,549 children in that age range died in fatal car wrecks.

    The report found that more than two-thirds of those who died were not wearing a safety restraint, and fewer than half were sitting in the back seat, which is the safest area for a child to be.

    The death rate would be lower but for the fact that many children between those ages are too big for child safety seats and too small for adult seat belts, the CDC said.

    Booster seats and back seats

    The CDC recommends that children ages 4 to 8 use booster seats so that shoulder belts fit them securely between the neck and arm and the lap belt fits across the upper thighs. Only about 5 percent of the children killed in accidents were using booster seats.

    Federal officials also recommend that any child under 12 years old ride only in the back, which studies show could cut deaths by a third. But about a quarter of all children routinely ride up front, the CDC said.

    Steven Trockman of the CDC's National Center for Injury Prevention and Control likened the problem to a disease for which a vaccine goes unused.

    "We have a known problem; we have a known vaccine for it," Trockman said. "The vaccine is not getting to the children."

    Variety of state laws

    While all states have child-restraint laws, the CDC also found wide gaps among the safety measures mandated for children ages 4 to 8.

    No state requires the use of booster seats, and 19 states allow children to ride in the back seat without a restraint, according to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, an Arlington, Va.-based research group funded by auto insurance companies. Only 12 states prohibit the use of adult seat belts for children.

    Adults who let children's complaints about sitting in booster seats and back seats override their better judgment also contribute to the problem, said Julie Rochman, an institute spokeswoman.

    "The parents are not making good decisions," she said.

     
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