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WRITER: LESLIE LOVELESS
CONTACT: BECKY SOGLIN
2130 Medical Laboratories
Iowa City IA 52242
(319) 335-6660; fax (319) 335-8034
e-mail: becky-soglin@uiowa.edu

Release: Nov. 19, 1999

Survey shows child-passenger restraint usage at all-time high

IOWA CITY, Iowa -- The percent of children appropriately restrained while riding in motor vehicles is at an all time high in Iowa, according to a survey conducted this summer by the University of Iowa Injury Prevention Research Center (IPRC).

The overall percentage of Iowa children under the age of 6 who are appropriately restrained while riding in a motor vehicle climbed to 74.8 percent in the 1999 survey, an increase of 1.6 percent over the 1998 survey. This is the highest level recorded since these surveys began in 1988. Researchers observed 6,210 children under age 6 in motor vehicles; 4,644 of these children were judged to be appropriately restrained.

However, small children in rural areas of Iowa are much less likely to be appropriately restrained while riding in a car than those in more populated areas. The survey showed that the smaller the community, the less likely young children were to be in seat belts or car seats appropriate to their size and age. Communities with fewer than 2,500 residents had especially low rates. On average, only 62.9 percent of all children observed riding in motor vehicles in these areas were appropriately restrained. By comparison, cities and towns with populations over 2,500 showed average child passenger restraint rates of 70 percent or better. Iowa’s largest communities -- those with more than 50,000 residents -- had the highest rates, averaging 76.8 percent.

Communities with the lowest rates of child restraint use were Guthrie Center (56 percent) and Sigourney (59.6 percent). Highest rates were in areas including Cedar Rapids (89.2 percent), West Des Moines (88.5 percent), and Des Moines-Merle Hay (87.1 percent).

Iowa law requires that children under the age of 3 be in a car seat whenever they are riding in a motor vehicle. Children between ages 3 and 6 must be in either a car seat or buckled in with a seat belt. During the first ten months of 1999, four of the six children under the age of 6 who died in car crashes on Iowa roads were not properly restrained, according to statistics from the Governor’s Traffic Safety Bureau (GTSB) of the Iowa Department of Public Safety.

Children who were not restrained were often observed standing in the front or back seats or hanging out windows, in the cargo areas behind the back seats of vans, or riding in the backs of pickup trucks. Surveyors also observed infants lying on front or back seats, sitting unrestrained on the laps of drivers or passengers, or in safety seats that were not belted into the vehicle or were facing the wrong way.

Researchers expressed concern that parents may mistakenly believe that the roads are safer in rural areas than in urban areas.

"While the statewide average usage of child passenger restraints is favorable, the lower use in rural communities remains a concern," said John Lundell, the IPRC deputy director. "Lower use of car seats and seat belts for children in Iowa’s rural areas is consistent with an overall higher rate of preventable injuries and fatalities in rural communities."

He added, "Although urban traffic crashes are more common, they are generally less likely to cause injury and death than rural motor vehicle crashes, where driving speeds are often higher, and emergency treatment resources can be far away."

Care safety practices for Iowa children are also on the increase with more small children being placed in the back instead of the front seat. The rear seat of motor vehicle is always a safer location for children of all ages to ride. This year, researchers observed that 81.0 percent of children under 6 were riding in the back seat. This is a 2.7 percent increase over last year, and a substantial jump over the past six years. In 1993 the number of Iowa children observed in the rear seat was only 52.3 percent.

The child restraint survey, which is supported by Governor's Traffic Safety Bureau with funds from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, has been conducted each year since 1988. Cars passing 37 different sites around the state were observed by surveyors May through August of this year. These same sites, which include urban, rural, and highway settings, are used annually by the survey team.

"We are glad to see that the number of children traveling in child safety seats has increased," said Jan Goldsmith of the GTSB. But, she added, caregivers are in need of better instructional information since many child safety seats are still being used improperly, putting children at risk of serious injury.

For more information, contact John Lundell at the UI Injury Prevention Research Center at (319) 335-4458 or the Governor’s Traffic Safety Bureau at (515) 281-3907.

Attached is a breakdown by site of restrained and unrestrained children observed in motor vehicles.

1999

1999

1999

1998

1998-1999

Number of

Number of

Child

Child

Child

Children

Children

Restraint

Restraint

Restraint

Observed

Restrained

Usage

Usage

Usage

Difference

Algona

188

139

73.9%

81.2%

-7.2%

Armstrong

129

81

62.8%

66.2%

-3.4%

Belle Plaine

181

132

72.9%

56.9%

16.0%

Cedar Falls

210

173

82.4%

86.4%

-4.0%

Cedar Rapids

231

206

89.2%

82.0%

7.2%

Cherokee

194

127

65.5%

69.3%

-3.8%

CB-Hwy6-K-Mart

89

56

62.9%

67.4%

-4.5%

CB-North Park Mall

93

69

74.2%

71.6%

2.6%

Davenport

255

189

74.1%

79.3%

-5.2%

Des Moines-E. Euclid

169

102

60.4%

67.3%

-7.0%

Des Moines-Merle Hay

155

135

87.1%

85.8%

1.3%

Des Moines Southridge

150

107

71.3%

80.3%

-9.0%

West Des Moines

148

131

88.5%

84.9%

3.6%

Dubuque

182

135

74.2%

72.9%

1.3%

Dyersville

110

92

83.6%

68.5%

15.1%

Fort Dodge

198

139

70.2%

71.2%

-1.0%

Glenwood

145

101

69.7%

76.1%

-6.4%

Guthrie Center

125

70

56.0%

50.8%

5.2%

Iowa City

175

140

80.0%

80.4%

-0.4%

Jefferson

132

97

73.5%

66.4%

7.1%

Mason City

196

152

77.6%

75.9%

1.7%

Newton

194

154

79.4%

80.5%

-1.1%

Ottumwa

183

135

73.8%

67.4%

6.4%

Pocahontas

126

94

74.6%

47.2%

27.4%

Red Oak

131

81

61.8%

60.8%

1.0%

Sigourney

178

106

59.6%

41.0%

18.6%

Sioux City

206

165

80.1%

82.1%

-2.0%

Storm Lake

221

157

71.0%

76.9%

-5.8%

Waterloo

193

154

79.8%

79.7%

0.1%

Waverly

127

103

81.1%

73.2%

7.9%

I-35 Ankeny

273

227

83.2%

84.1%

-0.9%

I-80 CB-Expy

117

85

72.6%

64.2%

8.5%

I-80 Des Moines

45

32

71.1%

71.6%

-0.5%

I-80 Iowa City

63

47

74.6%

78.0%

-3.3%

US 30 Ames

240

196

81.7%

83.8%

-2.1%

US 30 Boone

178

124

69.7%

69.5%

0.2%

US 30 Marshalltown

280

211

75.4%

76.9%

-1.5%

TOTALS

6210

4644

74.8%

73.2%

1.6%