Facts About Children in Motor Vehicle Accidents
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), over 638 American children no older than 12 died in motor vehicle accidents during 2013. That same year, 127,250 children nationwide were injured in motor vehicle accidents. Oregon has adopted travel safety law for kids requiring use of proper child restraints in an attempt to reduce the number of children injured or killed in motor vehicle accidents.
The CDC reports use of car safety seats reduces the risk of death for infants under the age of one by 71%, and reduces the risk to toddlers between the ages of one and four by 54%. For children between the ages of four and eight riding in a booster seat, the risk of serious injury is reduced by 45%. Saving even one child’s life justifies requiring parents and adults to use proper child safety restraints each time a child rides in a motor vehicle.
Oregon Safety Belt Laws
Oregon’s safety belt laws require all drivers and passengers in a vehicle to be properly secured with a safety belt or other safety harness; vehicle owners are also required to maintain the safety belt systems in their vehicles in good working order. Violations of Oregon’s safety belt laws may result in a traffic ticket. There are very few exceptions to Oregon travel safety law for kids. One allows the Department of Transportation to grant a medical exemption, if supported by a physician’s statement.
Safety restraint laws apply to these vehicles in Oregon:
- Private passenger cars and vans
- Pickup trucks
- Privately owned commercial vehicles carrying 15 or fewer passengers (such as limousines, shuttles, taxis, and the like)
Oregon Child Restraint Laws
Adults are expected to follow all safety belt laws for minors traveling in the vehicle. Child restraint laws specify special safety equipment for infants, toddlers, and children under the age of eight or under 4 feet 9 inches in height. Failure to use child restraints or seat belts is a Class D traffic violation, which carries a fine of $110.
Car Safety Seats
Oregon travel safety law for kids requires that infants ride in a rear-facing car safety seat until they are at least two years old. It is recommended that a child stay in a rear-facing seat until they are two years old and reach the maximum height and weight for their car safety seat. After a child is two years old, the child can ride in a forward-facing car safety seat. A car seat must be used until the child weighs more than 40 pounds. A rear-facing car safety seat cannot be placed in the front seat of a vehicle equipped with an airbag. That is not only dangerous, but also a violation of Oregon’s law on the proper use of infants’ car safety seats.
Once a child weighs over 40 pounds or the child’s weight exceeds the limit of a car safety seat, the child must be restrained in a forward-facing booster seat. Children must ride in a booster seat until they are over 4 feet 9 inches inches tall or eight years old, and the adult belt fits property. The requirement to use a booster seat does not apply to vehicles only equipped with lap belts, but the lap belt must be securely fastened over the child’s lap.
Adult Seat Belts
When a child is eight years old or over 4 feet 9 inches tall, the child can be properly secured with the vehicle’s safety belts. But because not all safety belts fit in the same manner, a child may need to remain in a booster seat if any of the following conditions apply:
- The child cannot sit all the way back against the seat;
- The child’s knees do not bend at the edge of the seat;
- The shoulder belt does not cross the shoulder between the neck and the arm;
- The lap belt does not fit snuggly across the upper thighs; or
- The child cannot sit comfortably secured by the safety belt for the entire duration of the trip.
Oregon travel safety laws for kids do not encompass all of the recommendations of the National Highway Traffic Safety (NHTSA). For example, NHTSA recommends all children between the ages of 8 and 12 ride in booster seats, and always ride in the rear seat until at least attaining the age of 13.
Common Mistakes Parents Make When Installing a Child Safety Seat
Choosing the proper safety seat for your child is vital for protecting your child while is riding in a vehicle. Even the best child safety seat will not offer the maximum protection, however, if it is not properly installed. Common mistakes parents make when installing a child safety seat include:
- Placing the child safety seat facing the wrong way;
- Choosing a safety seat not designed for the child’s age, weight, and/or height;
- Placing the child safety seat in a seat that has an airbag;
- Failing to secure and tighten the harness and crotch straps of the safety seat;
- Failing to install the safety seat properly or tighten the vehicle’s safety belt to the safety seat fully;
- Failing to ensure the safety belts fit correctly when the child is using a booster seat; and,
- Using broken or defective child safety seats.
When you choose a car safety seat for your child, you need to choose a device based on your child’s age and the seat maker’s size recommendations. Once you have selected a car safety seat, before installing the safety seat in your vehicle, review all of the instructions for installation and use. You should also register the car safety seat, to ensure you receive vital information on recalls or other information from the manufacturer or any government agencies.
Do You Need to Have Your Car Safety Seat Checked by a Professional?
To assist the public in assuring their child safety seats comply with Oregon travel safety law for kids, Oregon Impact offers free seat check-up events throughout the state. At these events, parents and others can have their car safety seats checked by a child protection safety technician. The technician can also teach you how to install and re-install your car safety seat and provide tips for its proper use.