Monday, September 21, 2015

Reiboldt: Please help keep our kids safe

(From Rep. Bill Reiboldt, R-Neosho)

The Missouri Coalition for Roadway Safety is dedicated to reducing the number of fatalities on all our state’s highways. Since 2006, we have seen a downward trend in traffic related deaths in our state; however, fatalities for 2015 are currently running about 13 percent greater than last year at the same time. Missouri recorded 572 traffic deaths as of September 13. National safety reminders are set to help make motorists aware of potential traffic dangers.

One of the more recent safety reminders took place last week with the observance of National Child Passenger Safety Week. Research shows that while seat belts are excellent protection for adults, they are not designed to keep children safe in the event of an accident. Child safety seats and approved booster seats do.

Missouri’s child restraint law went into effect on August 28, 2006. Today all fifty states and the District of Columbia have such laws. Our state’s child restraint law requires children less than four years old or less than forty pounds to be in an approved child safety seat. Children ages four through seven who weigh forty pounds or more must be in an appropriate child safety seat or booster seat. Children eight and over weighing eighty pounds or more and who are at least 4’ 9” in height are required to be secured by a safety belt or buckled into an appropriate booster seat. All children under 16 years of age must be wearing a seat belt in vehicles at all times. In Missouri, violations of this law may result in a fine of fifty dollars, plus court costs. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration recommends that, whenever possible, all children under the age of 16 ride in the back seat of a vehicle.

Even though children are to be properly restrained when traveling in a vehicle, one in five children, fourteen years of age or younger who are killed in motor vehicle crashes are pedestrians. Individuals driving should be alert to areas where children are present. This includes residential neighborhoods, school zones, playgrounds and around school bus stops. Children are often distracted and oftentimes are unable to accurately judge traffic situations, so it is vital that those driving have a heightened sense of alertness in these areas.

Always be aware of children. Slow down in school zones and restricted areas, and remember the laws about stopping for school buses loading or unloading children. Also know that many vehicles have a blind spot, so be extra careful around areas with youngsters present. Check for children on sidewalks, driveways and around your car before moving it, and especially before backing it up.

October 19 - 25 has been set aside for the observance of National Teen Drivers Safety Week. While driving is a great privilege and can be fun, it can also be very dangerous, especially for young inexperienced teen drivers. Obviously, these young drivers lack the skill and knowledge that comes with more time behind the wheel. Unfortunately, motor vehicle crashes are the leading cause of death for U.S. teens. AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety Studies report that teenage drivers are involved in more accidents per mile than any other age group of drivers. The good news is that most accidents involving teens can be prevented if parents become involved in their teen’s driving instruction.

Areas that parents need to focus on with their teenage drivers are driving practice, driving distractions, teen passengers, and night driving. The number one cause of accidents for teen drivers is driver distraction, and the number one cause of distractions is cell phone use, followed by having passengers in the car. The AAA study found that compared to driving alone, the risks of death in a traffic crash for 16- and 17-year-old drivers increases with one passenger in the car. It doubles with two passengers and quadruples with three or more. Also, a teenage driver’s chance of being involved in a deadly crash doubles at night.

Parents have a tremendous responsibility in raising their children, from buckling a new baby in the car to helping that child become a safe driver sixteen years later. Along the way, parents need to remember that little eyes are watching them when they themselves get behind the wheel. Safe driving lessons begin much earlier that age 16. Though some of this may seem tedious, saving one child’s life will make it all worthwhile. Please help keep our kids safe.

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