Cars kill 2,000 kids a year unnecessarily, experts say

Safety groups tell parents: Put children in back seat

February 11, 2003|By KNIGHT RIDDER/TRIBUNE

WASHINGTON - The lives of up to 2,000 children could be saved each year if parents buckled them up in the back seats of their cars instead of allowing them to ride in the front, road-safety experts said yesterday.

The unnecessary fatalities persist despite a 10.7 percent decline in child fatalities from car crashes in the past six years and a 94 percent drop in child deaths related to air bags, said Chuck Hurley, executive director of the Air Bag & Seat Belt Safety Campaign, a unit of the National Safety Council.

"One- to two-thousand additional lives a year could be saved if children were placed in the rear seat properly restrained," he said, pointing to research findings that rear seats are 35 percent safer than front seats.

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, more children than ever - 92 percent of those under 7 - wear seat belts, but drivers are still seating 18 percent of their youngsters next to them, increasing the likelihood of serious or even fatal injury.

"Although we have made huge progress, this work is not yet done," NHTSA Administrator Dr. Jeffrey Runge told a news conference yesterday. "There are new parents every day, and even old parents need to be reminded how to transport their children to minimize danger in a crash."

Children under the age of 12 should never sit in a front seat, he said, regardless of airbags.

"The biggest difference is being in the back seat, away from that point of impact and away from where the child would go into the hard structures of the vehicle," (windshield and dashboard), said Dr. Marilyn Bull of the American Academy of Pediatrics in Elk Grove Village, Ill.

Surveys show children are more likely to be restrained properly when the driver is belted, safety experts added.

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