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Enforcement to focus on the right safety system
09/05/2008
Carla Levinski, 503-986-4199
or Shelley Snow, 503-986-3438
 
 

Unbelted – or improperly belted – occupants in a car are five times more likely to be ejected in a crash than those who are belted; and the odds of surviving ejection are estimated at one in four. While most Oregonians get the message that seat belts save lives, many still use the wrong restraints for child passengers. During Oregon’s “Click It or Ticket” campaign, Sept. 7 – 20, extra law enforcement personnel will be working to ensure child passengers are buckled in right.
 
“Last year, one in three children under age eight killed or injured in crashes were using adult belt systems or were totally unrestrained,” said Carla Levinski, Occupant Protection Program manager for ODOT. “Children should be in child seats appropriate for their size, so in this campaign, we’re focusing on educating the public about booster seats.” 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.
 
“Safety belts are designed to hold adults inside a vehicle,” Levinski said. “Smaller passengers can slip right out of the lap belt. They can’t use the shoulder portion because it’s placed too high and doesn’t come anywhere near their shoulder. A booster seat lifts the child up so the belts fit right: low on the lap and squarely across the collarbone, away from the face or neck.”  Booster seats are much easier to install and generally less inexpensive than the harness type child seats, Levinski noted.
 
ODOT’s Safety Division provides federal funding for overtime enforcement and this year, 27 sheriff offices, 63 police departments, and Oregon State Police Patrol Division will be watching for safety belt and booster seat usage. Most Oregonians do use their safety belts: ODOT’s recently completed annual observational survey showed drivers and front seat passengers using seat belts increased 1.07 percent to 96.43 percent (compared to the national average of 82 percent).
 
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 (see the ACTS Oregon event calendar, www.childsafetyseat.org). In addition, Sept. 21 – 27 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 82% used incorrectly.
 
To find out about proper use of child passenger restraint systems, call the Child Safety Seat Resource Center at (503) 643-5620 or 800-772-1315 or visit www.childsafetyseat.org.
 
EXTRA FACTS
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.
 
While it is not the law in Oregon, putting children aged twelve and under in rear seating positions is recommended, according to Levinski. Research indicates that rear seating reduces the risk of injury by 37 percent for that age group.
 
Oregon law prohibits minors from riding in an open bed of a pickup truck, except under very 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.