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Notice to Readers National Child Passenger Safety Week -- February 8-14, 1998

February 8-14 is National Child Passenger Safety Week. During 1996, a total of 1701 children aged less than 15 years died as passengers in motor-vehicle crashes in the United States (National Highway Traffic Safety Administration {NHTSA}, unpublished data, 1996). This week focuses on efforts to improve the safety of children riding in motor vehicles. Several specific actions should be taken to help reduce injuries and death among child passengers.

  • All children riding in motor vehicles should be properly restrained at all times. In 1996, a total of 938 (55%) child passengers who died in motor-vehicle crashes were unrestrained at the time of the crash (NHTSA, unpublished data, 1996). In addition, many children are not restrained properly. In 1996, although approximately 85% of infants and 60% of children aged 1-4 years were restrained, almost 80% of child-safety seats were used improperly (1). Rigorous adherance to the instructions for child-safety seats and the recommendations provided in vehicle owners' manuals will help to avoid mistakes when using child-safety seats. In addition, the following specific child-safety-seat instructions will improve safety for child passengers:

    1. Ensure harness straps are not twisted and provide a snug fit by routing them through the correct seat slots behind the child's shoulders;

    2. Position the harness retainer (chest) clip at the armpit level of the child to hold the harness straps on the shoulders; and

    3. Properly use locking clip (within 6 inches from the latchplate) on all vehicle safety belts that have a sliding latchplate (the latchplate locks into the buckle).

  • Efforts to protect children from drivers who drink should be strengthened. In 1996, a total of 395 (23%) child passenger deaths involved a drinking driver; of these children, 259 (66%) were in the vehicle driven by the driver who had been drinking (NHTSA, unpublished data, 1996). The legislatures of 21 states have enacted child endangerment laws that create a separate violation for persons who drive while intoxicated with a child in the vehicle (2).

  • Children should be protected from air-bag-related injury. As of January 1, 1998, a total of 12 children in rear-facing child-safety seats and 38 other children have died while riding in the front seat as a result of injuries associated with deployment of air bags in motor-vehicle crashes of minor or moderate severity (Special Crash Investigation Program, NHTSA, unpublished data, 1998). In vehicles with passenger side air bags, all children aged less than or equal to 12 years should be placed in the back seat in age- and size-appropriate restraints. Riding in the back seat is safer for children regardless of whether vehicles are equipped with air bags.

    The safety of child passengers is improved through the

combination of increased public education, strong child passenger safety laws, and rigorous enforcement of these laws. Additional information is available from the Office of Communications and Outreach, NHTSA, 400 Seventh St., S.W., NTS-21, Washington, DC 20590; fax (202) 493-2062; or NHTSA World-Wide Web site at; and from CDC at


  1. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. Patterns of misuse of child safety seats: final report. Washington, DC: US Department of Transportation, National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, 1996; report no. DOT-HS-808-440.

  2. Mothers Against Drunk Driving. Rating the states, 1996. Irving, Texas: Mothers Against Drunk Driving, 1997.

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