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Enforcement to Focus on Child Passenger Restraints
Oregon Department of Transportation
Carla Levinski
(503) 986-4199
Shelley Snow
(503) 986-3438

Statewide effort runs Aug. 30 - Sept. 12, involves nearly 100 agencies
In Oregon last year, some 99 percent of all child passengers were observed riding in child restraints, and that’s worth celebrating. Among four- to eight-year olds in particular, however, observed booster seat use was only 58 percent — and one-third of children in this age group killed or injured in crashes last year were not using booster seats. In fact, four children died in crashes in 2009, and three of them were improperly restrained. That means highway safety advocates remain committed to their cause of making sure child passengers are wearing the right restraint for their age and size.
“Oregon law requires that a child over forty pounds but under age eight or less than 4’9” tall be restrained in a booster seat that elevates them so the lap and shoulder belts fit correctly,” said Carla Levinski, Occupant Protection Program manager for the Oregon Department of Transportation. “We often see parents letting their children get out of the booster seats and into adult restraint systems too early. Kids want to feel grown up, but it’s up to the adults to keep them in child restraints that will protect them until they have grown to the size where adult belts fit correctly.”
From Aug. 30 to Sept. 12, law enforcement agencies statewide will be working overtime to improve safety on Oregon’s roadways. In addition to traditional efforts aimed at reducing drunk and drugged driving, officers will monitor safety belt usage, with a particular emphasis on child passengers. The campaign will be followed by national Child Passenger Safety Week, Sept. 19 – 25, when free child safety seat clinics will be held all over the state, helping parents and caregivers understand the law and how to follow it.
Occupant protection educational and enforcement efforts on Oregon’s roads are paying off, with 2009 experiencing a full seven percent reduction in motor vehicle occupant fatalities over the previous year. Also in 2009, there were seven fewer child passenger fatalities and 30 fewer child passenger injuries than in 2008. However, 37 percent of the booster-age children injured last year (158 of 430) were using adult belts rather than booster seats.
“If the lap and shoulder belts don’t fit correctly, children need to be in child seats or booster seats appropriate for their size,” Levinski said. “In order for a child to transition from booster to a correctly fitting belt system, the lap belt needs to lie across the upper thighs and the shoulder belt needs to fit across the chest, away from the face or neck. The child needs to be able to ride comfortably like this for the whole trip without misplacing the shoulder belt behind the back or under the arm and without slouching down, making the belt ride up on the stomach. ”
In Oregon, the law requires the following
  • 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.
Although Oregon law doesn’t require that children ride in the back seat, studies show that rear seating reduces the risk of injury by 38 percent for children under age 12. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics and U.S. Department of Transportation, best practices dictate that children ride in rear-facing car seats to age two or longer, to the upper weight limit of the safety seat.
“One of the more common things parents do is move their children from rear-facing to forward-facing safety seats too early,” said Levinski. “Manufacturers are making car seats with higher rear-facing weight limits, and we’d like to see children stay rear facing as long as possible.”
To help select and properly use the right restraint system for child passengers, free safety seat clinics are held throughout the state on an ongoing basis. For an event calendar and to get tips on traveling safely with children, visit ACTS Oregon at www.childsafetyseat.org or call (503) 643-5620 or 800-772-1315.
Other important facts
  • Consistent vehicle restraint use is the single most effective way to protect motor vehicle occupants against crash injury or death, according to the U.S. Department of Transportation.
  • According to U.S. DOT’s National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, approximately 8,959 lives were saved from 1975 to 2008 by the proper use of child safety seats.
  • Thirty Sheriff Offices, 67 Police Departments and OSP Patrol Services Division are participating in federal overtime grants administered by ODOT through Oregon Association Chiefs of Police, Oregon State Sheriffs Association, and OSP Patrol Division.
  • Oregon’s 2009 belt use rate was 96.3 percent and ranked within the top five state rates nationally. (The nationwide average was 84 percent.) The most recent survey, just completed in June 2010, reveals belt use in Oregon has risen to 97 percent for passenger cars and 95 percent for pickup truck occupants.
  • Oregon law prohibits minors from riding in an open bed of a pickup truck, except under very strict circumstances.