Now that the summer travel season has arrived, the St. Lawrence County Traffic Safety Program is reminding residents to use seat belts and restraints and to use them properly.
“Seat belts are the most effective lifesaving feature in a vehicle,” said Mary Davison, the county Traffic Safety Information Specialist. “However, they only work if you use them and use them correctly. It only takes a second to snap the buckle on a seat belt, but that simple action can cut your chances of death or serious injury in half.”
Nearly one in five Americans still fail to buckle up regularly and too many children still don’t use their seat belts or child safety seats. Unbuckled passengers are a risk to everyone in the vehicle, as they become airborne “missiles” during a collision. According to research by Jehle et. al., unbuckled back seat passengers double the driver’s risk in a crash, whether or not the driver is buckled up.
National studies by Safe Kids have shown that children’s car seats that are in use often aren’t used properly. Locally, over 9 out of 10 child safety seats that were checked at St. Lawrence County car seat programs were found with one or more errors. Many of these are serious errors, including failing to secure the seat tightly enough, using incorrect lower anchor points, and failing to tighten the harness snugly.
“You have too much to lose if you don’t buckle up—or buckle your children in properly, “said Davison. “Using the proper age-appropriate car seat in a passenger car will reduce your infant’s chance of fatal injury by 71 percent and your toddler’s by 54 percent.”
According to research compiled by NHTSA, from 1975 through 2009 an estimated 9,310 children under age 5 were saved by child restraints (car seats or adult seat belts). All States have laws requiring infants and toddlers to ride in car seats, but children still ride unprotected, and the consequences are frightening. According to NHTSA, fully 31 percent of passenger vehicle occupants under 5 who were fatally injured in crashes in 2009 were riding unrestrained.
New York State requires:
• All children to be restrained in an appropriate child restraint system while riding in a motor vehicle until their 8th birthday. An appropriate child restraint system is one that meets the child's size and weight and the specifications of the manufacturer.
• A child restraint system may be a child safety seat, harness, vest or a booster seat.
• The vehicle's safety belt alone is NOT a child restraint system.
•Booster seats MUST be used with a lap and a shoulder belt.
The seat belt laws are explained on the “Safe New York” web site at www.safeny.ny.gov/sesa-ndx.htm. For other questions about child safety seats, you can find a link to the national list of Certified Child Passenger Safety Technicians at www.safeny.ny.gov/seatlist.htm.