Tag Archives: Child Passager Safety

How Will You Send Your Kids to School? – Make Safety Your First Priority

By Leah Walton

I’ve worked in the traffic safety arena for more than 10 years. I know the rules of the road, I know the traffic statistics, and I know the safest mode of transportation.   

But what I don’t know yet is how I will feel when I send my first child to kindergarten. The first day of school is fast approaching, and I admit I’m getting emotional about it. Will my son be safe and happy in this new environment? Will he make friends? Is he ready for kindergarten? Where did the time go?

One thing we should also ask ourselves: how will our children get to and from school and what is the best way of getting there?

The best way to get to and from school varies from family to family, and sometimes even student to student. We must take into consideration all the options and determine the safest way to transport our children.

Students can travel by school bus, family vehicle, public transportation, bicycle, or walking. Regardless of the way they get there and back, we must teach them – and demonstrate for them – the safest practices and behaviors.

Will your child ride the school bus? It should be your first choice if it is an option for your family.  Statistically, the school bus is the safest form of transportation on America’s roadways. Before your child steps on the school bus, talk to them about how to ride the bus safely. Remind them to wait at the bus stop until the bus comes to a complete stop and the driver signals that it’s ok for them to get on. Once on the bus, they should sit quietly in their seat facing forward, buckle their seat belts if the school bus has them, and hold the handrail when getting on or off the bus.

Will your child walk or bike to school? That’s an excellent way to reach the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ recommended 60 minutes or more of daily physical activity! It is recommended that children under the age of 10 walk with an adult or an older, responsible sibling. Talk to your children about walking safely, using crosswalks and sidewalks, and walk the route with them before school starts to practice being a safe pedestrian. If they ride their bike, make sure they wear their helmet – a helmet is the best protection against head and brain injury. Review bicycle safety tips and practice the ride with them too, to ensure they are safe and ready.

Will your child ride with you or drive themselves to school? It is important to note that more students are killed while riding or driving in a passenger vehicle than any other mode of transportation. If this is your family’s only or best option, make sure everyone is as safe as possible in the family vehicle. Make sure everyone is in the right type of seat for their size, has their seat belt fastened, and is free of distractions (if driving)

source: National Highway Traffic Safety Administration

Back to school safety isn’t just an important consideration for parents and caregivers of schoolchildren – back to school safety should be a priority for all community members. Today, the NTSB hosted a press event that featured the “Look Out for Each Other” campaign of Montgomery County, Maryland, which reinforces the sentiment that traffic safety involves everyone. We must all work together to make sure everyone reaches their destination safely – whether we are on our way to work, out for an evening with friends, or headed off to the first day of school.

Back to school time comes with many mixed emotions – especially for me now. But, with proper planning, fears around how our children will get to and from school should not be among them.

Leah Walton is a Safety Advocate for NTSB

Child Passenger Safety Week: Protecting our Future

By Stephanie D. Shaw

In 1996, nearly 20 years ago, the National Transportation Safety Board asked the states to strengthen their child passenger safety laws to make sure that all children are properly restrained in a child safety seat or booster seat and that they ride in the back seats of cars.

The NTSB cited 1994 data that said that more than half of children fatally injured in motor vehicle crashes (647 out of 1,203) were unrestrained. They were twice as likely to die as restrained children.

Had they lived, those 647 children would be adults today. They would be working their first real jobs, or like my son who was born in 1996, they would be going back to school for the fall semester. Some would be raising children of their own.

How much has changed?

Motor vehicle crashes are still a leading cause of death for children age 4 and the second leading cause of death for children age 3 and every age 5 through 14. On average, 3 children are killed and more than 400 are injured in traffic crashes every day. In 2013, 307 children died completely unrestrained in motor vehicle crashes.

NHTSA Child Car Safety infographicThey didn’t have to. Car seats, booster seats, and seat belts, used effectively, save lives. Car seats are 71 percent effective in reducing the risk of death to infants and 54 percent effective for children between the ages of 1 and 4.

As a volunteer Child Passenger Safety technician I’ve been trained on how to install all varieties of seats in many types of passenger vehicles.

But even more importantly, I’m a mom – and one day, I want to be a grandmother. And perhaps the single most important thing I can do to make that happen is to make sure that my daughters, ages 5 and 10, are riding in properly installed car seats and booster seats—just as my son did.

As a technician, I walk parents and caregivers through the process of installing their car seats. I demonstrate how to use all their features. I send parents away capable of ensuring that the seat stays properly installed, and armed with the knowledge to provide the maximum safety benefit every time they drive their children somewhere.

And as a safety advocate, I share these tips with as many parents as I can:

  • Children need to be in car seats or booster seats until they fit an adult seat belt properly. Seat belts are designed to protect adults and do not properly fit children until they are at least 4’9” tall.
  • Keep your children in a rear-facing car seat for as long as possible – at least until age 2.
  • Keep your children in a forward-facing car seat with a harness until they reach the maximum height or weight limit for the seat.
  • All children should ride properly restrained in the back seat.
  • If you’re flying, don’t check your car seat like you do your luggage! Even in a plane, children are at risk if they aren’t properly secure in their own seat using a car seat or seat belt.

In communities all across the country, child passenger safety technicians and advocates like me are working to ensure that parents and caregivers are correctly using the right passenger restraints for the children in their care, whether that is a rear- or forward-facing car seat, booster seat, or a seat belt.

If you’re concerned that you may not be using your seat correctly or have questions about the seat your child should be using, I encourage you to find a free hands-on event near you.

Your children – and grandchildren – are counting on you.

Saturday, September 19, is National Seat Check Saturday, to find an event in your community visit http://www.safekids.org/events.

Stephanie Shaw is a Safety Advocate in the NTSB Office of Communications.

A Transportation Safety Need . . . 25 Years Later

By Christopher A. Hart  

On July 19, 1989, the unthinkable happened –fragments from an uncontained engine explosion took out all three independent hydraulic systems of a DC-10 traveling from Denver to Chicago, rendering all flight controls ineffective. Then an amazing thing happened – despite this catastrophic event, the pilots and emergency responders were able to save 185 [1] of the 296 people on board when the plane crashed in Sioux City, Iowa. The NTSB’s investigation of this accident led to 25 recommendations and advancements in aviation safety, including research on non-destructive inspection techniques for rotating engine parts and reliability of flight controls. Twenty-five years later, however, one issue that remains unaddressed is the issue of allowing lap-held infants.

For more than 30 years, the NTSB has investigated aircraft accidents involving unrestrained children and has issued safety recommendations asking the FAA to require that children under age 2 be appropriately secured in a child restraint. Unlike when they are riding in a car, children under age 2 on an airplane are permitted to travel unrestrained. However, adults may not be able to maintain a secure hold on a lap-held child during turbulence or survivable accidents, as appears to have been the case with this united flight. Preventable deaths and injuries have occurred in children under age 2 who were unrestrained.

We issued our most recent recommendation addressing this concern following the investigation of the March 22, 2009, crash of a private plane carrying a pilot and 13 passengers in Butte, Montana. The plane was equipped with only 10 seats; however, the investigation determined that some seats were occupied by two passengers. We asked the FAA to mandate child seats for all passengers, including those in general aviation aircraft. In response to this and previous recommendations, the FAA has encouraged, but not required, parents to use appropriate restraints for children under 2, on the basis of their concerns that parents may choose to drive to their destination instead of flying if they are required to purchase another seat for their infants, but the likelihood of death or injury is greater from driving than from flying.

Meanwhile, the problem remains. Earlier this year, a United Airlines flight encountered severe turbulence while flying from Denver to Billings, Montana. While it’s not uncommon to hear reports of planes encountering turbulence and passengers being jostled around in their seats, what was particularly concerning about this incident was that a baby who was traveling on a parent’s lap received minor injuries.

The safety of infants and children on aircraft was discussed at the 38th Session of the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) General Assembly, held in September 2013. The Assembly identified the need for recommended practices encouraging air operators to use child restraint devices appropriate to each child’s size and weight, as well as guidance for regulations related to child restraints and the use of different types of devices. The NTSB is supporting ICAO’s efforts by providing an advisor to the ICAO Cabin Safety Working Group. This group is focusing on the importance of developing guidance material to assist ICAO member states and operators to implement the use of child restraint system and enhance safety of infants and children on board aircraft in an internationally harmonized manner.

Parents want to keep their children as safe as possible. When parents drive, they look to state laws for guidance on how to properly restrain our children; when they fly, they look to the FAA or airline to determine how to best restrain our children during flight. Unfortunately, the laws and regulations for flying with our children don’t always reflect what is best or safest. The NTSB has long recommended and advocated for children to be properly secured in a restraint appropriate for their size, whether flying or driving.

On that fateful day twenty-five years ago, United Airlines Flight 232 approached Sioux City airport at over 240 miles per hour. What the pilots were able to accomplish was remarkable. The fact that the parents of two lap children couldn’t hold on to their babies, however, was not surprising. Another passenger found one of the babies and was able to get her out of the plane; the other infant did not survive. Lap babies rarely die in airplane crashes, but those statistics are little comfort the families that have suffered such a loss.

After pursuing this issue for decades, we are very disappointed that there has been little progress. We are encouraged, however, that ICAO has begun discussing the issue, and we hope that those activities will bear fruit in the foreseeable future.

[1] One passenger survived the initial crash, but died 31 days later. For the purposes of the NTSB report, this passenger’s injuries were classified as “serious.”