As the new year begins, our thoughts turn toward the future. Its the future health and safety of our children, grandchildren, nieces and nephews that spurred Illinois lawmakers to amend the Child Passenger Protection Act (CPPA) of 1983 during 2003.
This addition to CPPA took effect on Jan. 1, 2004, and requires children between the ages of 4 and 8 to be properly secured in an appropriate child restraint system such as a belt-positioning booster seat. Booster seats raise children up on car seats so lap and shoulder belts fit and function correctly. Illinois law will continue to require children under the age of 4 to be secured in an approved child restraint system.
Drivers, regardless of their relationship to the child, are responsible for complying with the law. In addition, the parent or legal guardian of a child under the age of 8 years old is legally required to provide a child safety seat to anyone who transports his or her child, including day care providers and relatives.
Violators will be fined $50, which will be waived when proof of possession of an approved safety seat is provided to the proper law enforcement agency. Additional violations will result in $100 fines.
There are exceptions to the law. First, children weighing more than 40 pounds can sit in the back seat of a motor vehicle while wearing a lap or shoulder belt if the back seat does not have a belt system permitting installation of a booster seat. And, children with physical disabilities that prevent using standard safety seats are also exempt from the law if the disability is certified by a physician.
Motor vehicle crashes are the leading cause of death for children age 2 to 14. During 2004, CPPA is expected to save the lives of about 15 children, as well as prevent or reduce the severity of injuries suffered by thousands of children involved in vehicle accidents. During 1997, almost 1,800 children younger than age 15 years were killed, and 282,000 were injured as passengers in motor vehicle crashes. Forty-six percent of children ages 5 to 9 involved in fatal crashes were unrestrained.
Those numbers show how dangerous it is for children when adults fail to use car seat restraints. As sad as those numbers are, a hopeful sign that the new provisions in CPPA will take hold can be found in a July 2003 analysis conducted by the Division of Traffic Safety in the Illinois Department of Transportation. The survey revealed child safety seat usage in Illinois increased from 67 percent in 1997 to 83 percent in 2003. The percent of seats installed properly, however, was only 60 percent.
Infant, toddler and child safety seats and boosters can be complicated to install, which is why Winnebago County Safe Kids Coalition provides free inspection clinics. We want to help children in the Rock River Valley have happy, healthy New Years celebrations for years to come. Call (815) 489-4483 for more information.
DAnne Homer is the staff education coordinator at OSF Saint Anthony Medical Center and Winnebago County Safe Kids Coalition.