Seat belt and child restraint usage highest ever reported

Published 12:00 am Thursday, November 17, 2005

Special to the Journal

More Alabamians than ever are protecting themselves and their children by buckling up, according to 2005 survey results.

The seat belt usage rate was a reported 82 percent, as compared to 80 percent in 2004.

The child restraint usage rate in 2005 was 92 percent, up from 83 percent in 2004.

These both mark the highest usage rates ever for seat belts and child restraints.

“We are excited about the unprecedented seat belt and child restraint usage rate.

Many partners have worked together to improve passenger safety in the state, and will continue to do so in the future,” said State Health Officer Dr. Donald Williamson.

“Continued educational efforts, as well as continued law enforcement initiatives are needed in order to sustain these rates and reduce death due to injury.”

Motor-vehicle related deaths are the number one cause of death due to injury in our state.

Injury and death due to motor-vehicle crashes can be prevented through the use of seat belts and child safety seats.

In 2003, 1,001 people were killed and over 43,000 were injured in motor vehicle crashes. Of those killed, 50 percent were not wearing safety restraints.

Using guidelines required by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, the study observed 57,449 front seat occupants in 15 selected counties.

The county with the highest seat belt usage rate was Montgomery County at 91 percent.

The lowest seat belt rate was reported in Lee County at 75 percent.

Houston and Shelby counties has the highest child restraint rate at 94 percent, while the lowest rate was reported in Colbert and Escambia counties with 86 percent.

Organizations such as the Alabama Department of Economic and Community Affairs, Children’s Health System, Alabama Department of Transportation, Alabama Department of Public Safety and the Alabama Department of Public Health have collaborated to increase passenger safety in the state through educational and enforcement efforts.

Through Alabama’s “Click It or Ticket” campaign state, county and municipal law enforcement agencies conduct massive enforcement of the state’s safety belt laws, including public safety checkpoints.

“There is a correlation in adult seat belt usage and child restraint usage. So we must continue to inform adults about restraining themselves in addition to restraining their children,” said Nancy Wright, Director of the Injury Education Branch at the Alabama Department of Public Health.

Protecting children as they grow:

n Rear-facing infant seats- birth to at least age 1 and less than 20 pounds.

n Forward-facing child safety seats- age 1 to about age 4 and 20 to 40 pounds.

n Booster seat- about ages 4 to 8 and under 4-feet-9-inches tall and 40 to 80 pounds.

n Lap and shoulder belts- at least age 8 or over 4-feet-9-inches tall.

n Check with an expert and always read a car owner’s manual for advice on installing safety seats properly.

It is important to note that although 92 percent of Alabamians are using car seats, 4 out of 5 seats are improperly installed.

To ensure that children are properly restrained, 19 permanent inspection sites are located statewide with certified child passenger safety specialists and instructors to assist parents in the correct installation of car seats. These stations are funded by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and the Alabama Department of Economic and Community Affairs.

For more information on seat belts and child restraint, please visit the Alabama Department of Public Health’s Web site at To find a local inspection site please call 1-800- 504-9768.