FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: Saturday, September 19, 2020
CONTACT: Pete Daniels, Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety / firstname.lastname@example.org / 301-442-2249 (C)
Statement of Cathy Chase, President, Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety, on Child Passenger Safety Week
Rising Danger on Roadways Must be Met with Better Protections for Vulnerable Child Passengers
Over the last few months, numerous reports from across the country have made it clear that our roadways have turned into risky raceways with motorists driving recklessly at excessively high speeds, while distracted or when impaired. This trend endangers all road users, especially children. During Child Passenger Safety Week (September 20-26), we urge all parents and caregivers to make certain children are best protected while on the road. I know that my children have grown seemingly in the blink of an eye, so now is a great time to reassess and make sure yours are in age and size-appropriate child restraints that are properly installed or are buckled up in the rear seat.
Motor vehicle crashes are among the leading causes of death for American children ages one to 14. In 2018, 1,038 children aged 14 and younger were killed, and an estimated 190,000 more were injured in motor vehicle crashes. On average, nearly three children are killed and another 520 are injured each day. States have a critical role to play in reducing this tragic toll. Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety (Advocates) calls upon state legislatures to require proven safeguards to:
- Keep children in a rear-facing safety seat until age two or older to provide optimal support for the head and neck in the event of a crash. Thirty-five states have an opportunity to enact an optimal law to do so. We commend the 15 states (CA, CT, IL, LA, ME, NE, NJ, NY, OK, OR, PA, RI, SC, VA, WA) and DC that have already taken action.
- Use a booster seat until children can properly be restrained by a seat belt, at approximately 57 inches in height and age eight. Thirty-four states and DC should prioritize passing this law, as 16 states (CA, GA, ME, MD, MA, MI, MN, NJ, ND, OR, RI, SC, TX, UT, WA, WV) have already accomplished.
More information about child passenger safety seat recommendations and state laws to protect child occupants can be found in our 2020 Roadmap of State Highway Safety Laws.
Advocates is also working to advance legislation at the federal level that would provide significant safety benefits to child passengers. The Hot Cars Act (H.R. 3593) and the Moving Forward Act (H.R. 2), which was passed by the U.S. House of Representatives on July 1, require the use of proven and available technology to prevent the death or injury of a child unknowingly left in a vehicle or who has accessed the vehicle independently and inadvertently been trapped inside. These bills direct the U.S. Department of Transportation to develop a minimum performance standard for systems that can detect the presence of an occupant and respond with alerts and would require this technology as standard equipment in all new cars. The ability to detect a child has been shown to be especially important during the pandemic, as the percentage of hot car deaths resulting from children getting into vehicles and becoming trapped inside has risen from an average of 26 percent to 55 percent so far this year.
Another issue that endangers the safety of child passengers is seat back failure. The Modernizing Seat Back Safety Act (S. 4122) would require the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) to update safety standards for seatback integrity. Instances of seats collapsing during a collision can result in front seat occupants being forced backward, injuring or killing children or other passengers sitting behind them. Advocates urges swift action on this essential improvement.
We also call on the NHTSA to issue long overdue congressionally-mandated rules:
- Improving Lower Anchors and Tethers for Children (LATCH) to help ensure child safety seats are properly secured; and,
- Requiring rear seat belt reminders which are an effective tool to ensure back seat passengers, who are frequently children, are buckled up.
The challenges of daily life facing parents today can be overwhelming. With the added demands related to the ongoing public health crisis, distance learning, and the pressures of the economic downturn, it can be easy to forget the importance of properly securing children in a vehicle. This Child Passenger Safety Week, we urge all parents to take every available measure to keep their little loved ones safe in and around vehicles.
Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety is an alliance of consumer, medical, public health, law enforcement and safety groups and insurance companies and agents working together to make America’s roads safer. Advocates’ mission is the adoption of federal and state laws, policies and programs that prevent motor vehicle crashes, save lives, reduce injuries, and contain costs.