By Dewey-Kollen, Janet
Law & Order , Vol. 52, No. 2
Child passenger safety (CPS) is one area of traffic safety that has experienced an explosion of activity and positive results over the past 10 years. Child restraint use has increased significantly over the past decade, and the number of child crash fatalities, including air bag-related fatalities, has decreased dramatically. Progress in safe transport of children can be attributed to a groundswell of support from public safety, child safety advocates, health and safety specialists, government officials and others, along with a responsive public.
The milestones that led to today's major improvements in transportation safety for children include new research as to the causes and mechanisms of child crash injuries, and application of these research findings via effective public health policies. Also important are the development of quality training programs for police and other child safety advocates, passage of stronger child passenger safety laws, visible enforcement of child passenger safety laws, and a move by parents to buckle up kids and have them ride in rear seating positions.
Child Passenger Safety Week 2004, slated for Feb. 9-15 this year, celebrates the progress made in protecting child passengers and urges all to keep pressing for safer transportation of children. CPS Week is a national effort designed to draw attention to ways to keep young passengers safe in motor vehicles. Agency activities often include public information programs, inspection of car seats for correct use, and other activities designed to get more kids correctly buckled up.
Key research findings relative to kids and cars include: 1) Motor vehicle crashes are the leading cause of death for children in every age group from 2-14 with 2095 crash fatalities in 2002; 2) In 2002, an average of six children ages 0-14 were killed and 721 injured every day in motor vehicle crashes in the United States; 3) Fifty percent of children under age 15 who were fatally injured in crashes were completely unrestrained; 4) Child safety seats reduce the risk of fatal injury by 71% for infants and 54% for toddlers (1-4 years) in passenger cars; 5) A child's injury risk is reduced by 33% when moved from the front to the back seat; and 6) Child safety seats are used incorrectly in 80-90% of the time.
Armed with the realization that more kids die from crashes than any other cause and that many of these fatalities are preventable through correct use of child restraints and seat belts, the nation's traffic safety and health communities mounted massive efforts over the past decade to train the public about correct restraints for children by age and size. In addition, NHTSA and the International Association of Chiefs of Police (IACP) developed training opportunities specific to law enforcement and other professionals so that officers could help families with child passenger safety issues.
Since 1996, more than 30,000 public safety professionals and concerned safety advocates have been trained as Certified CPS Technicians (CPST) through a 32-hour course. The objective of this curriculum, which includes testing and a certification process, is to train a national cadre of safety technicians about correct child restraint selection. Technicians then use this knowledge to answer questions by individual families specific to the safe use of their child's car seat.
"Operation Kids- Law Enforcement," a training program designed to encourage law enforcement administrators and officers to actively promote child passenger safety through enforcement and community education, was developed jointly by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) and the International Association of Chiefs of Police (IACP). This training is offered in a four-hour format for administrators and an eight-hour and two-day format for officers.
Similar to the national CPS technician training, information taught through "Operation Kids" includes correct use and installation of child restraint systems and the important role police serve as community advocates for child safety. …