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Child traffic fatalities fall in Iowa

BY MATT STARNS | SEPTEMBER 20, 2012 6:30 AM

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The number of child traffic fatalities has decreased statewide, and local officials are encouraging residents to ensure the safety of their children on the road.

According to new statistics released by the Iowa Governor’s Traffic Safety Bureau, traffic fatalities for children under the age of 14 decreased from eight deaths in 2010 to six deaths in 2011. 

Mark Nagel, occupant protection coordinator for the bureau, said the actions of Iowa parents have played a significant role in the decrease.

“We can provide all of the education, seat manufacturers can design the safest seats, car manufacturers can make the safer cars,” he said. “But unless that parent buckles those kids up when they travel, there is no way our fatalities rates are going to go down.”

Nagel said the decrease is statistically surprising, given the increase in driving that occurs every year in the state.

“We know there are more miles driven every year, there’s just more miles traveled, so statistically they should go up,” he said.

Nagel also said the bureau encourages parents to be proactive in ensuring their children’s car seats are installed properly. He said the bureau certifies child passenger safety technicians who can correctly install the seats for parents, as well as developing brochures and providing training for people teaching prenatal classes — who, in turn, encourage soon-to-be parents to make sure their children are properly protected.  He said there are over 400 currently certified technicians in the state.

Shannon Stokesberry, co-coordinator of the Linn County Safe Kids coalition, said it is important for parents to check with a certified technician to ensure that a car seat is installed properly.

“Ninety percent of the car seats we check are not installed properly,” she said. “A lot of parents think they have it right. There really is more to it than people think.”

Stokesberry also said the coalition offers monthly car-seat checks, by appointment, for parents who want to ensure the seats are installed correctly. Johnson County also has a Safe Kids coalition that offers checks for child safety seats.

Nagel said the state of Iowa requires all passengers under the age of 18 to wear a seatbelt at all times while in a moving vehicle. He noted the law also requires adults to wear seatbelts if they are seated in the front of the vehicle. Nagel said, however, he feels it is unwise to travel in any seat of a moving vehicle without properly using a seatbelt.

Iowa City police Sgt. Denise Brotherton said child traffic fatalities in Iowa City are a rarity.

“We rarely have fatalities,” she said. “I can’t think of one with a child in the recent past.”

Coralville Police Chief Barry Bedford said traffic fatalities are infrequent because of traffic patterns in the area.

“We don’t have very many of those, thankfully, in town,” he said. “If there are crashes in town, usually the speeds aren’t high enough, thankfully, to cause serious injury or death.”

Bedford said, however, this is no reason to avoid ensuring a child’s safety in a vehicle.

“It’s crucial,” he said. “If you have your kids properly seatbelted in with a properly installed safety seat, it can save their lives.”


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