The number of Alabama drivers strapping kids into car seats has risen, but officials said they want legislation requiring more kids traveling in vehicles to be restrained.
Child restraint usage jumped to 89 percent in 2002, up from 77 percent in 2000, according to a new survey by the state Department of Public Health. Adult seat belt usage held steady at 79 percent of drivers.
Currently, state law requires children through the age of six to be secured in some type of car seat. But state officials said they want that expanded through age eight.
Dr. Bill King, the director of the Alabama SAFE KIDS Campaign at the Child Safety Institute of Children's Hospital in Birmingham, said a law requiring special seats for kids who have outgrown infant seats and convertible seats would save more lives.
Adult drivers in Shelby and Montgomery counties had the highest rate of seat belt usage in the state at 87 percent and 84 percent, respectively, according to the new study. The lowest amount of seat belt usage was in Jefferson and Blount counties.
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Seat Belt Tips
- A safety belt can only protect you if it is used -- and used properly.
- Provide enough safety belts for each person traveling in your vehicle. Each person needs his or her own safety belt. Make sure all safety belts are working properly.
- Ask passengers in the front and rear seats to use their safety belts. Most people will gladly buckle up if the driver asks them to.
- Do not start your car until all safety belts are fastened.
- Adjust your safety belt so it fits snugly over your hip bones. It should cross your lap low on the hips, not high across your stomach.
- A shoulder belt should go over your shoulder and across your body diagonally. It should never be worn under your arm.
Child Restraint Laws
- Children under the age of four years must be secured in an approved child restraint system, more commonly called a child safety seat.
- Four and five year-olds must be secured either in a safety seat or by a safety belt.
- A person or legal guardian of a child under the age of four years is responsible for providing a child safety seat to anyone who transports his or her child.
- A person who transports another's child under four years of age does not violate the law if the parent or legal guardian fails to provide a child safety seat and none is used.
- A child with a physical disability, which prevents the use of standard safety seats, is exempt from the provisions of the law if the handicap is duly certified by a physician. A blanket exemption is also granted in case of medical emergency.
- According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, 100 percent correct use of child safety seats could have prevented nearly 500 deaths and about 56,000 serious injuries to children in the United States in just one year alone.
Source: www.state.il.us/isp/ (Illinois State Police Web site) contributed to this report.