CONTACT: DAN MCMILLAN
283 Medical Laboratories
Iowa City IA 52242
(319) 335-8032; fax (319) 335-8034
Many of Iowa's rural children are improperly restrained in automobiles
IOWA CITY, Iowa -- Children in Iowa's rural areas are much less likely
than urban youngsters to be properly restrained while riding in motor vehicles,
according to a recently completed study by the University of Iowa Injury
Prevention Research Center (IPRC).
Only 49.9 percent of the children in the four smallest Iowa communities
studied in the 1997 Child Passenger Restraint Survey were judged to be
properly restrained, while 76.8 percent were judged to be properly restrained
in the four largest communities.
The large discrepancy between restraint usage in small communities versus
urban areas is consistent with other research that indicates persons are
at greater risk of being injured in rural areas, according to Craig Zwerling,
associate professor of preventive medicine at the UI College of Medicine
and director of the IPRC.
"We know that people in rural areas face higher risk of injury
from a variety of causes, including automobile crashes, contact with agricultural
equipment, and fires in the home," Zwerling says. "The proper
use of child restraint devices in automobiles is one way parents and other
adults can ensure that rural children at least do not face increased risks
while riding in the car."
Overall, the survey found that more Iowans are properly restraining
their young children while riding in motor vehicles. This year, researchers
estimate that 70.3 percent of infants and children under age six were properly
restrained, an increase of 1.2 percent over the 1996 survey. The survey
took place at 37 locations across Iowa this past summer.
The survey also found an increasing percentage of Iowans placing their
children in the rear seats of vehicles. Recent attention to the hazards
of passenger-side automobile air bags has likely heightened awareness that
the safest place for children is in the rear seat of motor vehicles. According
to the 1997 survey, 75 percent of all children were riding in the rear
seat. This compares to only 52 percent in the rear seat in 1993.
The child restraint survey, funded by the Governor's Traffic Safety
Bureau (GTSB) of the Iowa Department of Public Safety, has been conducted
each year since 1988. In Iowa, the GTSB reported that 17 children under
age 6 were killed in motor vehicle crashes in the state in 1996, the highest
figure recorded since statistics were first compiled in 1982. In addition
to the fatalities, 60 to 80 young children are seriously injured in Iowa
vehicle crashes each year, according to the GTSB.
J. Michael Laski, director of the GTSB, cites the importance of conducting
the annual survey.
"The survey results help us to measure the effectiveness of the
child restraint law and identify where our child restraint campaigns should
be targeted," Laski says.
Iowa has had a child passenger safety restraint law in effect since
1985, requiring all children under the age of three to be protected in
a car safety seat, and children between the ages of three and six to be
secured in a safety seat or by a safety belt.
For more information, contact the UI IPRC at (319) 335-4458 or the Governor's
Traffic Safety Bureau at (515) 281-3907.