Give your children the gift of safety this holiday season

Safety Belt Awareness—buckle up everyone, every time!

Motor vehicle crashes are the leading killer of children younger than 14. Nationwide, crashes kill more than 1,300 children a year and injure more than 200,000. So far this year in Illinois, there were 326 fatal deaths due to safety belt and car seat restraints not used or used improperly.

A new program at the Winnebago County Health Department, funded by the Illinois Department of Transportation-Traffic Safety Division, will focus on promoting safe travel for children and adults. The Northwestern Illinois Occupant Protection Coordinator will oversee this new program. The goal of the program is to increase the use of child safety seats and safety belts, thus reducing fatalities. The program will also focus on safety belt awareness campaigns and will work with local and state authorities in coordinating these special events and educational sessions.

Following are some frequently asked questions regarding safety belt protection.

I am just running down to the corner grocery store, why should I wear my seat belt?

Most crashes occur on short trips close to home and on low-speed roads, not highways.

I am strong enough, why can’t I hold my child on my lap?

Holding a 10-pound baby in a 30-mph crash requires 300 pounds of strength to keep that baby safe. It can’t be done.

Wouldn’t I be safer if I were “thrown clear” of the crash?

People thrown from a vehicle are four times more likely to be killed than those who remain inside. Also, you could be thrown around in the car and injure someone who is wearing his/her safety belt.

Safety belt usage is the law. Safety belts must be worn by all drivers and front seat passengers 8 years of age and older. In Rockford, the fine for not wearing your safety belt is $55.

Click It or Ticket Campaign

Local law enforcement will be out in full force from through Dec. 11 writing tickets for people who aren’t buckled up. The goal of the Click It or Ticket Campaign is not to give out tickets, but rather influence people to buckle up and prevent injuries and fatalities. Research proves the certainty of a ticket and costly fines convinces people to use their safety belts and safety seats. Individuals at higher risk for sustaining injury in a motor vehicle accident include: (1) Teen-agers and young adults; (2) Those driving pickup trucks; (3) and living in rural areas. Young men between the ages 18-34 are at even more risk. In 2003, 64 percent of all vehicle occupants in Illinois involved in accidents were killed or seriously injured because they weren’t wearing their safety belts.

Free Car Seat Safety Checks

Sunday, Nov. 20, 2005, 11 a.m.-2 p.m. at Gray’s Foods parking lot, 6321 N. Second St., Loves Park.

Under Illinois law, children younger than 8 must be restrained in an appropriate car seat. Properly used, a car seat reduces the risk of death by 71 percent for rear-facing car seats and 54 percent for forward-facing toddlers. Booster seats are important because safety belts are designed for adults and do not fit properly small children. Properly used, a booster seat reduces the risk of death by 59 percent. “In Winnebago County from early 2004 to August of 2005, 88 percent of all car seats that were seen at local check points, were incorrectly installed,” according to Susan York, Winnebago County Safe Kids Coalition. Nationally, four out of five car seats and two out of five booster seats are used incorrectly.

If you would like your car seat checked by a certified technician and to learn more about occupant protection, join the Winnebago County Health Department and the Loves Park Fire Department on Sunday, Nov. 20, from 11 a.m.-2 p.m. at the Grays Foods parking lot, 6321 N. Second St., Loves Park. The Loves Park Fire Department will also be holding a food drive for the local pantry.

For more information on seat belt awareness programs, please contact Melanie Wingo, Northwestern Illinois Occupant Protection Coordinator at the Winnebago County Health Department, (815) 720-4345.

From the Nov. 16-22, 2005, issue

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