Lt. Colonel Ken Howes
Florida Highway Patrol
For Release February 6, 2004:
TALLAHASSEE- From February 8-14, 2004, the Florida Highway Patrol will join this national effort and spread the message that every passenger must ride properly buckled up in a vehicle for every ride. "No one should take for granted that their family will never be involved in an automobile crash. Everyone must make sure that relatives, neighbors and friends know that allowing a child or other passenger to ride unrestrained is illegal, and the consequences of sustaining a life long injury or death are never worth the risk," says Colonel Chris Knight, Director of the Florida Highway Patrol.
According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), 59% or 32,598 of the passenger vehicle occupants killed in crashes in 2002 were unrestrained. Buckling up is still the most effective way to reduce injuries and save lives from motor vehicle crashes in America. However, many adults and children still ride unrestrained or unknowingly use child restraints improperly. In Florida, over 96 percent of child safety seats and booster seats inspected by certified technicians are found to be improperly installed, according to data collected from fitting stations and child safety seat check up events. "We are using this national awareness week to remind families about the importance of buckling up and correctly installing the appropriate child safety seat in the vehicle," says Colonel Knight.
Infants must ride rear-facing from birth to 1 year of age and weigh at least 20 pounds, and must NEVER ride in the front seat of a vehicle equipped with a passenger air bag. Toddlers at least 1 year of age and who weigh over 20 pounds should ride in a forward-facing child safety seat. Children 4 to 8 years of age and up to 4' 9" in height should use a belt-positioning booster seat because the adult safety belt does not fit this age group correctly. Older children, over 4' 9", should use a safety belt. Unfortunately, a recent report from the 2003 Child Passenger Safety Summit found that children 8 to 15 years of age are less likely to buckle up, accounting for higher fatality rates.
To assist the public in checking their child's safety seat for proper installation, the Florida Highway Patrol has available nationally-certified occupant protection specialists in Tallahassee, Jacksonville, Orlando, Tampa, West Palm Beach, and Miami. Important information on child passenger safety can be found on the Patrol's website at www.flhsmv.gov/fhp.
"Many drivers just do not believe they'll be in a crash so they do not wear vehicle safety belts or make sure children are properly restrained for every ride. Our goal is to make sure that families understand the necessity of using the proper restraint every time they ride in a motor vehicle. Buckle yourself and buckle your child!" emphasized Colonel Knight.