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Increased Enforcement to Focus on Proper Safety Restraints - "Click It or Ticket"
Shelley Snow
ODOT Public Affairs
(503) 881-5362

Last year, 10 child passengers under age eight died in crashes on Oregon roadways. One of them was improperly restrained and three wore no restraints at all. Another 761 children in that age group were injured - that’s an average of more than two children under age ten injured every day in Oregon car crashes in 2008. Across the country, motor vehicle crashes are the leading cause of death among children 2 - 14 years old. A statewide “Click It or Ticket” campaign, set to run Aug. 31 - Sept. 13, will put extra law enforcement on Oregon roads to focus on increasing safety through proper restraint systems.

“One of the more common things parents do is move their children from rear-facing to forward-facing safety seats too early,” said Carla Levinski, Occupant Protection Program manager for ODOT. “The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends children ride rear facing to age two or as long as possible - to the upper weight limit of the safety seat.”
Manufacturers are responding by making car seats with higher rear-facing weight limits that go to thirty or even forty pounds, Levinski said.
“Because babies have heavy heads relative to body size and fragile necks, their soft spinal column can stretch in a crash, ripping apart the spinal cord,” Levinski explained. “When a child rides rear facing, the whole body, including head and neck, is cradled by the back of the safety seat in both frontal and side impact crashes.”
Older youngsters often want to get out of their booster seats before it’s safe, too, Levinski noted. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration - and Oregon law - children should stay in booster seats until they are age 8 or at least 4’9” tall.
“We need the lap and shoulder belts to fit correctly,” Levinski said. “And that means the lap belt lays across the hips on the upper thighs and the shoulder belt fits over the chest across the
collar bone. If a child or adult isn’t tall enough, the lap belt rides up on the abdomen and the shoulder belt rides up on the face or neck. These softer parts of the body are more susceptible to serious injury in a crash than the collarbone or hips.” For children, Levinski said, this is remedied by using a booster seat and for adults, safety belt adjuster.
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 37 percent for children under age 12. 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.
This year, Sept. 12 - 18 is “National Child Passenger Safety Week,” and many police, fire and other agencies will be hosting safety fairs with certified safety seat technicians on hand. Oregon has over four hundred certified child seat technicians who conduct more than 2,500 child seat inspections annually; they consistently find that 87 percent are used incorrectly.
Most Oregonians are getting the message that buckling up saves lives: more than 96 percent are doing so, according to the last survey. But unbelted - or improperly belted - occupants account for half of all Oregon crash fatalities. And these occupants often become projectiles during a crash, resulting in ejection or serious injury to other passengers who are belted in place. Odds of surviving ejection are estimated at one in four. ODOT’s Safety Division provides federal funding for overtime enforcement to continue reminding motorists that proper use of belts and child seats by everyone in the vehicle is essential for safe travel.
Since the 1990 passage of an adult belt law in Oregon, observed belt use among the motoring public has doubled from 50 percent to 96 percent, while crash fatality and injury rates have decreased by 46 percent and 44 percent respectively.
Oregon law prohibits minors from riding in an open bed of a pickup truck, except under strict circumstances.
Oregon's safety belt law no longer exempts commercial vehicles which are “designed or used to transport property.” This broad definition includes all types of trucks, vans, and passenger cars including those that are used for bulk transport, specialized delivery services, or movement of materials in conjunction with various projects or activities.