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Enforcement Blitz to Focus on Child Passenger Safety
02/01/2008
Carla Levinski
ODOT Occupant Protection Program manager
Office: (503) 986-4199
 
Lieutenant Gregg Hastings
Public Information Officer
Office: (503) 731-3020 ext. 247

From February 4 – 17, Oregon law enforcement agencies will be keeping a keen eye out to help
ensure motorists are correctly buckling up – themselves and their passengers. Since Oregon’s
child seat laws changed last July 1, the emphasis will be on making sure child passengers are
buckled in correctly.
 
“We’re taking this opportunity to educate people about the child seat laws and remind them to
buckle up every person, every trip,” said Carla Levinski, the Oregon Department of
Transportation’s Occupant Protection Program manager.
 
Lack of safety belt use was a major factor in half of Oregon’s traffic deaths in 2007. More than
a third of children injured in crashes were unrestrained, held on laps or using adult belt systems instead of appropriate child seats.
 
The enforcement blitz, a federally funded program administered by ODOT’s Transportation
Safety Division through the Oregon State Sheriffs Association, Oregon Association Chiefs of
Police and Oregon State Police Patrol Division, involves 27 sheriff offices, 63 police
departments and the OSP.
 
“Consistent, proper safety belt use is the single most effective way to protect people and
reduce fatalities in motor vehicle crashes,” said Captain Gerry Gregg, director of the OSP
Patrol Services Division.
 
Oregon’s new child seat laws established the following requirements:
 
• A child weighing less than 40 pounds must be restrained in a child safety seat.
• A child under one year of age or weighing less than twenty pounds must be restrained in a
child seat, rear facing.
• A child over forty pounds but under age eight or less than 4’ 9” tall must be restrained in a
booster seat that elevates them so the lap/shoulder belts fit correctly.
 
In addition, Oregon's safety belt law no longer exempts commercial vehicles “designed or
used to transport property.” Drivers and passengers in this category are now required to use
proper safety restraints (includes all types of trucks, vans, and passenger cars, including
those used for bulk transport, specialized delivery services, or movement of materials in
conjunction with various projects or activities).
 
Since the passage of the adult belt law in 1990, statewide crash fatality and injury rates in
Oregon have each dropped 43 percent. In 2007, Oregon belt usage went up to an all-time
high of 95 percent (front seat occupants) and 97 percent (all seating), placing Oregon among
the top five belt-use states. By comparison, the nationwide belt use average for front seat
occupants is 80 percent.
 
“Active enforcement practices and child seat checkup stations have helped get the message
across that using safety belts and child safety seats is critical to safe travel,” Levinski said.
“Continued education and enforcement are needed to maintain our high belt use and improve
compliance, particularly with Oregon’s booster law, which is currently only at 62 percent. To
facilitate compliance with car seat laws and improve child passenger safety, ODOT has
allocated $200,000 to provide car seats and boosters for low income families this year.”
 
ODOT will distribute funds through local programs. For more information, visit
www.oregon.gov/ODOT/TS/safetybelts.
 
Proper use of safety restraints
Proper use” is required by Oregon law and means using the entire belt system, lap belt low
across hips, and shoulder belt over collarbone and crossing center of chest. Belts should be
free of slack and lying flat with no twists or knots. If the shoulder belt portion of your adult
safety belt rides up onto your neck or feels uncomfortable, you may increase your comfort by
sliding the built-in adjuster up or down or by moving your seat position. Do NOT place your
shoulder belt under your arm or behind your back – this can cause serious internal injuries or
ejection in a crash. For help with repair, installation or retrofitting of safety belts, call your
vehicle dealer or vehicle manufacturer’s customer service department.
 
Child passenger protection
While it is not Oregon law, it is strongly recommended that children aged 12 and under ride in
rear seating positions. Research indicates that such rear seating reduces the risk of injury by
37 percent for that age group. For help with child safety seats, refer to the seat manufacturer’s
instructions, vehicle owner’s manual or call ACTS Oregon Child Safety Seat Resource Center
at 1-800-772-1315.
 
2007 Enforcement stats
During the 2007 grant year, $818,502 of federal traffic safety overtime generated 69,909 total
enforcement contacts and paid officers to staff child seat checks and other local educational
events. Total overtime contacts were as follows: 25,207 safety belt; 828 child seat; 13,205
speeding; 544 DUII; 2,442 suspensions; 516 felonies; and 27,167 all other violations.
 
(For updated information on highway work and current travel information throughout Oregon, visit
www.tripcheck.com, or call the Oregon road report at 511 or (800) 977-6368.  Visit the ODOT News Media Center at www.Oregon.gov/COMM.)