An estimated 65.2 million Americans will travel 50 miles or more from home this Christmas-New Year’s holiday period. According to the National Safety Council, nearly 600 people nationwide may die in traffic crashes over that same time span. With those figures in mind, Mayo Clinic Health System along with the Onalaska Police Department want to help you give the best present you can give your child this Christmas season; the gift of safety.
“We are finding that many families who come to visit us aren’t using the proper car seats for their children,” says Stephanie Maves, M.D., family physician at Mayo Clinic Health System in Onalaska. “In 2008, there were 297 passenger vehicle occupant fatalities among children age 4 and younger. Of those, 94 (32%) were totally unrestrained.”
“We’re asking all parents to take time to review their child care seat instruction manuals, review the laws and safety procedures regarding how they should be placed in your vehicle, and discuss with your children how important these seats are to their safe holiday travel,” said Officer Barry Holm from the Onalaska Police Department. “We know research on the effectiveness of child safety seats has found them to reduce fatal injury by 71 percent for infants (younger than 1 year old) and by 54 percent for toddlers (1 to 4 years old) in passenger cars.”
“The most important thing to keep in mind is that properly buckling up your child may save his or her life,” Holm adds. According to 2006 figures from the National Center for Health Statistics, motor vehicle crashes are the leading cause of death for ages 3 to 14.
It’s not just for toddlers, as parents with children between 4-8 years old should also review proper safety precautions. A recent study issued by the American Association of Pediatrics showed that children 4 – 8 years old who used a belt-positioning booster seat were 45 percent less likely to sustain injuries than similar aged children who were using the vehicle seat belt alone.
“The gift of safety can’t be wrapped, it can’t be hung in a stocking with care, but what it can do is last a lifetime. It’s a present you can’t afford not to purchase,” said Dr. Maves.
Wisconsin Booster Seat laws: http://www.dot.wisconsin.gov/safety/vehicle/child/
Minnesota Booster Seat laws: https://dps.mn.gov/divisions/ots/laws/Pages/child-passenger-safety.aspx
General Car/Booster Seat information: http://www.nhtsa.gov/DOT/NHTSA/Traffic%20Injury%20Control/Articles/Associated%20Files/4StepsFlyer.pdf
The La Crosse County Public Health office also has a program for families unable to purchase car seats/booster seats and can meet with families who have questions regarding properly installing them. Families interested in learning more about that program may call 608-785-9872.