Survey: Most child passengers improperly restrained

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WALLA WALLA — A recent survey at drop-off points at local elementary schools found that while 92 percent of drivers were using seatbelts, only 42 percent of child passengers were properly restrained.

“The surveys were strictly observational,” Walla Walla County Traffic Safety Task Force Nancy McClenney-Walters said in a news release.

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Washington’s child restraint law says:

Children must ride in an appropriate car seat or booster seat until they reach age 8 or 4-feet 9-inches tall. Seats must be used according to manufacturer and vehicle instructions.

Children who have reached age 8 or 4-feet-9 inches must be properly restrained in an adult seat belt OR remain in a booster seat.

Children younger than 13 must ride in back seats whenever practical.

For the best protection, safety experts recommend remain in:

Rear-facing child seats until at least age 2 or as long as seat allows.

Forward-facing harness up to height and weight limit of seat.

Belt positioning booster seats until the vehicle’s adult seat belts fit properly.

For more information, call Nancy McClenny-Walters at 524-2936 or email nwalters@wwchhs.o...

As children arrived at school, car-seat technicians noted whether they were younger than 13 and sitting in the front seat when a back seat was available; whether they were buckled in and buckled correctly in the proper seat for their age and height; and whether there were any serious errors being made, such as wearing a backpack when buckled or putting the seat belt under their arms, she said.

“I was not surprised at the results,” said McClenny-Walters. “I don’t believe parents intentionally buckle them incorrectly or don’t follow the law; I think it is more a lack of knowing what the current law is and understanding all the many pieces go into making sure a child car seat is installed correctly.”

Motor vehicle crashes remain the leading cause of death for children ages 1 to 12 in the U.S. McClenny-Walters said improperly installed car seats can result in many of those deaths.

But knowing which seats to use and how to install them can be confusing, which is why the local Traffic Safety Task Force holds periodic installation checks and how-to clinics and coordinates with the Washington Traffic Safety Commission to educate the public. Law agencies also conduct emphasis patrols to look for improper use of passenger restraints.

“As a new grandparent, I found myself doing things wrong but was unaware that they were wrong, McClenny-Walters said. “When teaching classes on child passenger safety, I always share two personal stories — one is that my last car had four different seat belt systems in one vehicle and each one requires a child seat to be secured in a different way.

“... The other story involves my granddaughter moving from her booster seat to a lap and shoulder belt. According to her age and height, she was ready for that move and in my car, she fit fine. But in her mother’s truck, the shoulder belt would still cross her neck. It goes to demonstrate you cannot always go by age and height.”

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