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FOR RELEASE: May 9, 2002
CONTACT: Dick Gunn
405/271-5601

Protect Your Children - Buckle Them Up

What’s the single most important thing you can do to protect your children? The answer is to buckle them up properly every time they ride in a motor vehicle.

As the summer travel season approaches, the Oklahoma State Department of Health reminds motorists that traffic crashes are the leading cause of injury death in Oklahoma. Each year, more than 20 children under 6 years of age die as a result of motor vehicle crashes and approximately 1,100 are injured. More than 70 percent of children who die are not in a car seat.

“Children who are unrestrained or improperly restrained are far more likely to suffer severe injuries and die in the event of a crash,” said State Health Commissioner Dr. Leslie Beitsch. “Car seats, when used correctly, reduce the risk of death by up to 71 percent.”

Current Oklahoma law requires children 3 and younger to be buckled in a car seat. Unfortunately, car seat use decreases after age 3, said Dr. Beitsch. “Parents assume it is safe to put a child in a seat belt when the child outgrows his or her car seat,” he said. “However, seat belts are designed for persons who are at least four feet and nine inches tall and weigh at least 80 pounds.”

Dr. Beitsch said children should use booster seats when they outgrow their car seats. A booster seat raises a child up so the seat belt fits properly.

Small children who are placed in seat belts rather than car seats or booster seats are three and a half times more likely to be significantly injured in a crash. They are four times more likely to receive a significant head injury. Children in belt-positioning booster seats have a 45 percent reduction in significant injuries.

Following are guidelines to help parents and caregivers determine which restraint is best for their children.

  • Infants should be in rear-facing car seats until at least 20 pounds and at least 1 year old. Never put a rear-facing infant or convertible seat in the front seat of a vehicle with an active passenger air bag.
  • Children older than 1 year old and between 20 and 40 pounds can be in a forward-facing car seat.
  • Children ages 4 to 8 (about 40 to 80 pounds) should be in a belt-positioning booster seat that is restrained with a lap and shoulder belt.
  • Usually, children over 80 pounds and four feet and nine inches tall can fit correctly in a lap/shoulder belt. When the child is sitting all the way back against the vehicle seat, the lap belt should fit across the child’s hips, not the stomach. The shoulder belt should cross the center of the shoulder.
  • Do not let your children put shoulder belts under their arms or behind their backs. This could result in serious injuries.
  • All children 12 and younger should ride in the back seat.
  • Replace any car seat that has been involved in a crash.

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