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Friday, July 29, 2011

Child Passenger Safety - Laws to Live By

By: Ashley D. Mansfield, College Intern - PIO, 301-883-3164

Whether or not you have children, odds are you at least know a child. According to the latest United States Census data on Households & Families in Maryland, from 2000, the percentage of households with children under age 18 in United States homes is 32.8. This percentage is higher in the state of Maryland, with 33.4 percent of households having children. It is even higher in Prince George’s County, where 35.3 percent of households have children.

Upon learning of the large number of children in Prince George’s County, it makes you realize how important child safety is—especially in vehicles. According to safekids.org, “motor vehicle crashes are the leading cause of death among children between the ages of 3-14.” Stopping children from riding in vehicles obviously is not the solution. The answer is to utilize proper prevention methods and child safety procedures, in order to decrease the chances of child injury or death while in a vehicle. Studies from safekids.org show that approximately 73 percent of child restraints are not installed or used correctly. Further, about half of the children aged 14 and under who do die in a car accident were completely unrestrained. But this is quickly counter-acted by the fact that properly used child seats and restraints can reduce the risk of death by as much as 71 percent. If you are unsure that you are correctly using your child’s safety seat, Safe Kids hosts car seat checkup events. They have mobile car seat checkup vans, as well as inspection stations where you can visit to make sure you are properly protecting your child from injury.

Studies found on safekids.org also show that children are 40 percent safer when riding in the back seat of a vehicle, as compared to riding in the front seat. The odds of injury drop to less than 2 percent when children riding in the back seat are also using restraints, e.g. seat belt or car seat.

Remember, children are to be at least 2 years of age and weigh 30 pounds before transitioning from a rear facing to a forward facing car seat. The American Academy of Pediatrics and the state of Maryland have accepted this as best practices. Also, children must be 4 feet 9 inches tall and weigh between 80-100 pounds before graduating from a car seat to a booster seat; and there is a five-step seat belt test before graduating to a seat belt position. Children are our future, keep them protected and drive safe to ensure their future.

A review of Maryland laws can be found at http://www.mdkiss.org/.

For further information you may contact Ms. Teresa Crisman, Fire/EMS Department Community Outreach Coordinator, at 301-883-5250, or visit one of the locations from the attached list.