Children#039;s safety depends on us

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, October 22, 2002

The State of Alabama doesn't care about our children.

That's what it seems like when we study the current safety belt laws. Although the law requires children 5 and under to be restrained, those over 5 in the backseat are allowed to ride without safety seats or seat belts. Unrestricted, these children are at great risk of physical harm in the case of an accident.

Steps are being made to change that situation. A bill has been recently introduced a bill that would require toddlers to be restrained in approved booster seats. We commend this effort - but it is only one step.

Currently, a driver is fined a maximum of only $10 for violating the child restraint law, in addition to having points added to his driving record. The maximum fine for adults is $25. Are our children valued so little?

According to the Center for Disease Control's National Center of Injury Prevention Control, injuries resulting from motor vehicle crashes are the leading cause of death for children 1 to 4 years old.

When properly installed, child safety seats can reduce fatal injury by 71 percent for infants and by 54 percent for toddlers, ages 1 to 4. The Center also claimed that 57 percent of car crash fatalities 0 to 15 years old were unrestrained.

There needs to be a law enforcing safety restraints for children, regardless of age or seating position. But even if there is no law requiring simple safety procedures, that doesn't mean we don't have responsibility to follow these procedures on our own. Some of these, as demonstrated by the Andalusia Rescue Squad Saturday at Wal-Mart, include:

Use child safety seats that have the FMVSS-2133 label, indicating it meets federal standards for child safety.

Children should ride in rear-facing seats until they are 1 year old and at least 20 pounds, up to 40 pounds, as long as they fit. Their ears should be below the top of the seat and their shoulders below the shoulder strap slots. (Children in rear-facing sets should never be placed next to a passenger airbag)

Children who have outgrown their safety seats (40 pounds or more) should ride in approved booster seats that allows for belt positioning. Lap and shoulder belts do not usually fit a child until he or she is at least four feet, 10 inches, and weighs 80 pounds.

Children 12 and younger should ride in the back seat whenever possible. They especially should not ride in front with a passenger airbag.

Car seats should be firmly secured according to the manufacturer's instructions.

Check the release buckles on the car seats to make sure that it opens correctly -neither popping open too easily, or sticking and being difficult to open.

It is time to take the law into our own hands - the unwritten law that demands we protect our children from avoidable harm.