2003-09-19 / Community

Children Are Safest In Rear Seat

Children Are Safest In Rear Seat

More than 1,700 children have been saved since 1996 solely because they were sitting in the rear seat, according to a new analysis issued today by the Air Bag and Seat Belt Safety Campaign.

The analysis was issued on the eve of a new standard taking effect that mandates 20 percent of all new vehicles sold in the U.S. be equipped with advanced air bag technology.

"We want to make sure parents are clear – old air bag, new air bag, no air bag, kids are safer in the back seat properly restrained," said National Transportation Safety Board Chairman Ellen G. Engleman.

The movement of children to the rear seat has been credited with helping to dramatically reduce the number of child air bag deaths and child deaths overall. Since 1996, the rate of child air bag deaths has declined a remarkable 96 percent despite more than five times the number of passenger air bag equipped vehicles on the road. Even more children have benefited from the additional margin of safety in the rear seat in the majority of crashes.

"One of this nation’s most important public health achievements in recent years has been the movement of children out of the front seat and into the rear," said Chuck Harley, Executive Director of the Air Bag and Seat Belt Safety Campaign of the National Safety Council.

Despite gains in child restraint use, recent data indicate that an alarming number of parents are still putting their children in the front seat. According to the NHTSA, parents are putting 15 percent of infants, 10 percent of toddlers ages 1-3, and 29 percent of children ages 4-7 in the front seat, placing them at increased risk of serious injury or even death.

The Campaign’s analysis also found that the movement to the rear seat corresponds with a significant reduction in fatalities among infants and toddlers. Infants experienced a 68 percent reduction in front seat fatalities from 1996 to 2001 and toddlers showed a 52 percent reduction over the same time period.

On September 1, 2003, 20 percent of all new motor vehicles sold in the U.S. must be equipped with advanced air bag technologies and by September 1, 2006 the requirement will apply to all new light trucks and cars. The new standard results from a Congressional mandate in 1998. Advanced air bag technologies vary, but in the simplest forms suppress or reduce the deployment force of the air bag.

"Improving technology is a good thing, but parents still need to remain vigilant in making sure kids are properly restrained," said E. Stephen Edwards, M.D., President of the American Academy of Pediatrics. "The evidence is clear that the safest place for kids 12 and under is the rear seat," said Edwards.

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