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Deputies Accept “Chiefs’ Challenge” to Increase Use of Seat Belts/Child Safety Seats

(HARFORD COUNTY, MD) — Every 15 seconds, someone in America is injured in a traffic accident. Every 13 minutes, someone dies. The Harford County Sheriff’s Office wants to reduce the number of people killed or injured on Harford County roads by participating in this year’s “Maryland Chiefs’ Challenge.” Co-sponsored by the Maryland Chiefs of Police Association, the Maryland Committee For Safety Belt Use, and the Maryland Highway Safety Office, the Maryland Chiefs’ Challenge is a statewide campaign to increase the public’s awareness and use of safety belts and child safety seats. Since April 1st and continuing through May 31, 2004, sheriff’s deputies are increasing their enforcement of safety belt and child safety seat laws – particularly around area schools. “We have noticed a drastic amount of children who are not belted when the parents are bringing them to school,” said Sgt. Joe VanSeeters of the Sheriff’s Office Traffic Unit. “This will be a main focus of our enforcement efforts in order to get parents to ensure that their children are buckled up safely, even if they are only traveling a few blocks to school.” Deputies will increase enforcement around other elementary schools throughout the county, too, he said. Deputies also will be on the lookout while on patrol for anyone not wearing a seatbelt and for children who are not properly secured,” VanSeeters said. “We recognize some people may view our enforcement of these laws as unnecessary. But we feel if our efforts educates a driver and protects a vehicle occupant from serious injury in a motor vehicle crash, then our enforcement is worthwhile and necessary,” VanSeeters said. Safety experts have said that ninety-one percent of all infants and ninety-four percent of all toddlers are restrained but less than 10 percent of children who should be in a booster seat – are. Vanseeters said it is difficult to predict how any crash will affect its occupants. “Buckling up or putting a child in a child safety seat is just common sense”, Vanseeters said. “Parents make their kids wear padding when they play football and shin guards when they play soccer – it only makes sense they secure children in child safety seats or make them buckle up when riding in a motor vehicle,” he said.

Failure to use a safety belt and child safety seat violations are primary offenses for which police officers can stop a driver and issue a citation. Violators can face a $25 fine for a safety belt violation and a $48 fine for a child safety seat violation. Police who cite a driver for a child safety seat violation may choose not to let the driver continue driving until a friend or family member responds with a child safety seat. The U.S. Department of Transportation offers the following tips for the proper selection and use of child safety seats:

INFANTS

  • Children younger than 1 who weigh less than 20 pounds should be placed in the back seat in an infant-only seat facing the rear, or a convertible seat facing the rear.
  • Children younger than 1 who weigh between 20 and 35 pounds should be placed in a convertible seat facing the rear. Select a seat recommended for heavier infants.
  • Secure seat to the vehicle by seat belts or by the LATCH system (Lower Anchors and Tethers for Children).
  • Tightly install child seat in the rear seat, facing the rear.
  • Recline child seat to a 45-degree angle.
  • Place harness straps at or below shoulder level. The straps should be snug on the child.
  • Place harness clip at armpit level.

PRESCHOOLERS/TODDLERS

  • Children between 1 and 4 who weigh between 20 and 40 pounds should be placed in a convertible seat facing forward, a forward facing-only seat, or a high-back booster/harness.
  • Secure seat to the vehicle by the seat belts or by the LATCH system (Lower Anchors and Tethers for Children).
  • Tightly install child seat in the rear seat, facing forward.
  • Place harness straps/slots at or above the child’s shoulders. The straps should be snug on the child.
  • Place harness clip at armpit level.

YOUNG CHILDREN

  • Children between 4 and 8 who are less than 4’9” tall should be placed in a belt-positioning booster (no back, base only) or a high back belt–positioning booster.
  • Place booster base in rear seat and secure with adult lap belt AND shoulder belt.
  • Shoulder belt should rest snugly across the chest, resting on the shoulder, NEVER under the arm or behind the back.
  • Place the lap belt low across the lap/upper thigh area, not across the stomach.

CHILDREN YOUNGER THAN 12

  • Safety experts recommend that children younger than 12 sit belted in the rear seat of any vehicle equipped with air bags. Although police officers cannot cite drivers who permit children younger than 12 to sit in the front seat of a vehicle equipped with air bags, the force with which air bags deploy can injure children.

For more information, call Sgt. Joe VanSeeters at 410-692-7872 or log on to www.buckleupamerica.org.

Press Release

April 27, 2004

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